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EDITORIAL: On our sleeves

If you noticed a lot of orange around the North Shore on Wednesday, it wasn’t because the leaves are changing. Sept. 30 marked Orange Shirt Day, a tribute to survivors of residential schools.

If you noticed a lot of orange around the North Shore on Wednesday, it wasn’t because the leaves are changing.

Sept. 30 marked Orange Shirt Day, a tribute to survivors of residential schools. Like many, it caught us off guard but the campaign is in its infancy. It started in Williams Lake in 2013, inspired by the bright orange shirt that was taken away from local activist Phyllis Webstad on her first day in residential school.

Much like how the now-famous Pink Shirt Day began with a single act of solidarity in defence of a boy who was bullied for wearing pink, we hope to see Orange Shirt Day catch on.

Between 1898 and 1959, more than 2,000 children from the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, Sechelt and Musqueam nations were taken from their parents and forced to live at St. Paul’s Indian Residential School, where St. Thomas Aquinas secondary now stands.

Those children were abused, had their cultures and languages beaten out of them and were denied the simple love and parenting that should come standard with childhood. The harm they endured explains much of the challenges the First Nations face today.

Despite the ghastly realities of residential schools being included in B.C. schools’ curriculum today, older generations were not taught about them. A scroll through the comments posted to any online news story about First Nations issues will make that abundantly clear.

It’s too late to take back the wrongs that were done but it’s not too late to correct our own ignorance and, in Webstad’s words, treat Sept. 30 as an “opportunity for First Nations, local governments, schools and communities to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come.”

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