Fall in the Peace is known for its striking fall colours. Orange and yellow leaves are on display everywhere. Last Friday however brought out a different but equally vivid display of fall colors, as many staff and students observed Orange Shirt Day. As described at orangeshirtday.org "Orange Shirt Day is a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) residential school commemoration event held in Williams Lake, BC, Canada, in the spring of 2013. It grew out of the story of Phyllis Jack Webstad's experience of having her shiny new orange shirt taken away on her first day at residential school, and it has become an opportunity to keep the discussion on all aspects of residential schools happening annually."
The end of September date was chosen because it corresponds with the time of year in when indigenous children were taken from their homes to residential schools, and because it is an opportunity to set the stage for anti-racism and anti-bullying policies for the coming school year. It also gives teachers time to plan events that will include children, in order to ensure that the story and learning is passed on to future generations. This year September 30th fell on a Sunday, but such is the significance Orange Shirt Day has acquired, that many schools held observances on Friday, September 28th so that the day could be recognized in community.
The t shirts worn in support of Orange Shirt Day bear the message that "Every Child Matters". While especially powerful in the context of this event, this message should also resonate for everyone everyday, to remind people that schools need to be safe welcoming and inclusive places for all.