Orange Shirt Day organizers in Victoria are warning people to do their research before purchasing a shirt ahead of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
The shirts that many Canadians purchase are inspired by the story of Phyllis Webstad, a residential school survivor who went to school with her favourite orange shirt that her grandmother gave her. When she arrived, the shirt was taken away and never seen again.
Webstad’s shirt has become a national symbol of Reconciliation.
With its popularity, it has also become an issue when it comes to exploitation. Local KWAKWAKA’WAKW artist Lou-ann Neel deals with third-party websites stealing her art on a regular basis.
“I’ve had several designs of my orange t-shirt design in remembrance of Residential School children stolen. A design I did when the Pope visited,” said Neel.
Neel added that although the internet has accelerated the issue of exploitation, this is nothing new for a lot of Indigenous artists.
Victoria Orange Shirt Day has been working diligently to let the public know where they can purchase authentic orange shirts. Organizer and Residential School survivor Eddy Charlie is worried that people’s kind intentions to spend their money for a good cause could go to the wrong people.
“There are many people that are profiting from that story of Residential School, and they are not contributing in any way in the healing. It’s not really a good idea to buy shirts online unless you trust the [website] or people,” said Charlie.
According to Victoria Orange Shirt Day organizers, approved places to buy a shirt include:
- Annex Fitness
- Barb’s Bakery & Bistro
- Big Wheel Burger
- Cafe Fantastico
- Discovery Coffee
- MĀ Yoga
- Politanos Cafe
- Shampoo Hair Bar
- Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea
- Vancouver Island Brewing
- Victory Barber & Brand
For more information, visit the Victoria Orange Shirt Day website.