Several hundred people covered Centennial Square in Victoria, wearing orange shirts, to mark the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Orange Shirt Day, or National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, was organized by Eddy Charlie, a survivor of the former Kupar Island residential school.
The Victoria event, given the name Xe Xe Smun’ Eem, which means “sacred children” in the Cowichan language, and similar events in other communities across Canada are meant to honour the survivors of residential schools, as well as those who never made it home.
“It’s very hard to think about it and my prayers to the families that their children never came back home,” said Elder May Sam of the Tsartlip First Nation.
Charlie and co-organizer Kristin Spray launched Victoria Orange Shirt Day in 2013 after taking inspiration from Phyllis Webstad, an Indigenous woman who shared her story of having her brand new orange shirt taken away from her at St. Joseph Mission residential school when she was just six years old.
The event featured a handful of speakers from various Vancouver Island First Nations, including the Tsawout, Tsartlip, Songhees, and Cowichan First Nations. Dancers and singers performed, and a moment of silence was held during a flag raising.
“National Truth and Reconciliation will become a true reality among us all,” said Charlie during a speech at the ceremony.
B.C. Minister of Indigenous Relations Murray Rankin presented Charlie with a proclamation for Orange Shirt Day in the province. He says he’s grateful but adds that his work is not finished.
“Future generations will be able to walk in a more kinder and gentler way than my generation did,” said Charlie in an interview with CHEK News.
A National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419.