Orange Shirt Day: BC Lions announce plans

For the second year in a row, the BC Lions will host a Orange Shirt Day in honor of residential school survivors and all children who did not return from institutions that were scenes of horrific abuse against Indigenous children.

“It takes a while after my presentation to be OK again,” Phyllis Webstad, the company’s founder, said in a shaky voice as she took the podium during the team announcement.

When she was six, Webstad’s grandmother took her shopping for a new outfit before her first day at St. Joseph’s boarding school near Williams Lake.

Webstad chose a bright orange shirt which was immediately confiscated upon arriving at school.

As an adult, she launched Orange Shirt Day, which takes place every September 30, and founded the dedicated to helping residential school survivors.

“What happened to us is Canadian history. It’s not just aboriginal history,” Webstad said.

“Canadians no longer have an excuse not to know what happened.

Following the confirmation of 215 presumed unmarked children’s graves at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, the federal government has declared September 30 a holiday called the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

It aims to provide Canadians with an opportunity to learn about and reflect on the dark legacy of residential schools.

Telling stories of physical, psychological and sexual abuse has an emotional impact on survivors.

As more and more Canadians learn the truth, some people and organizations, including the BC Lions, are trying to ease the burden by taking an active role.

“Kamloops is like a second home to us because it’s where we had our training camp for so many years,” said Jamie Taras, director of community partnerships for the team.

“We really felt like with the voice we have in this community, we could raise awareness, which is why we wanted to get involved.”

During their home game against the Ottawa Redblacks on Sept. 30, the Lions will be giving away 10,000 orange jerseys featuring a special team logo designed by Corrine Hunt, a Kwakwaka’wakw artist from Alert Bay, British Columbia.

The team will also be wearing Indigenous logo helmets for the game and selling hats, t-shirts and hoodies featuring the artwork – all net proceeds will go to organizations that work with survivors of the boarding schools.

Those wishing to learn more about what the survivors endured can start by reading the reports compiled by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the TRC’s 94 Calls to Action designed to pave the way for reconciliation.

Charles P. Patton