By Gordon Lambie
Students, faculty and staff of Bishop’s University and Champlain College Lennoxville walked together with members of the community during the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada on Thursday. Held in conjunction with Orange Shirt Day, the national day was established to honour the children who died as well as the survivors of the residential school system in Canada, their families, and communities.
Orange Shirt Day was created as a commemoration of the experience of Phyllis Webstad, from Dog Creek Reserve in British Columbia, who had the new orange shirt her grandmother had given her taken away on her first day in residential school.
Although this was not the first time that the campus community has marked Orange Shirt Day, this year’s events were much more extensive, lasting from 11:30 a.m. until after 4 p.m.
Thursday’s march began on the Bishop’s University Campus, before proceeding across Lennoxville to Centennial Park. The group then made its way back to Coulter Field, where the participants who remained were organized into the shape of the words “Every Child Matters” for an aerial photo.
Over the course of their journey the marchers heard from Abenaki and Cree elders as well as members of Bishop’s Indigenous Cultural Alliance at various stops along the way.
As a part of the day’s events, the memorial created by members of the local community earlier in the year for children buried in unmarked graves at former residential school sites was recreated near the start point of the march. The memorial, which is made up of children’s shoes, was first made in response to the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at the site of a former school in Kamloops, B.C. With other investigations ongoing at sites across the country, that number has now swelled into the thousands.