Orange Shirt Day 2020 commemorations moved online

By Reann Fournier, Special to The Record

Instead of having a march, normally held every Sept. 30, this year students and staff of Champlain Regional College and Bishop’s University will be hosting an online event to recognize Orange Shirt Day.
Orange Shirt Day, established in 2013, is meant to honour and remember the victims and survivors of residential schools in Canada. The commemorative day originated in Williams Lake, British Colombia at an event where Phyllis Webstad, a residential school survivor, shared the story of her new orange shirt being taken from her and replaced by a uniform upon arriving at a residential school.
The event will be hosted by the Bishop’s Indigenous Cultural Alliance (ICA), Bishop’s University, and Champlain College Lennoxville, and, according to the invitation, several speakers and notable individuals will be present. Shawna Jerome, co-lead of the ICA, also mentioned that Indigenous students will be speaking and that, time permitting, there will be an open floor for anyone who would like to speak.
While students and staff would typically gather on campus and march from one end to the other, this year looks a little bit different due to COVID-19 restrictions. Jerome said that they didn’t want to miss out on this year’s commemoration. “Although we would have loved to march in the streets to raise more awareness, this year it will be more intimate,” she said.
Jerome also discussed the importance of Orange Shirt Day and for education on Indigenous issues. “It’s about understanding the history and harm done by residential schools across Canada,” she said. “A harm that has not stopped once the last residential school closed in 1996, but that has been intergenerational. Many Indigenous families and communities continue to live with these traumas. Sept. 30 is an important event for non-Indigenous people as well because it is an opportunity for them to reaffirm their commitment to reconciliation and healing with Indigenous peoples.”
In Quebec and across Canada, both Jerome and her co-lead Alicia Moore-Iseroff believe that education and awareness is far from where it needs to be. “The history taught in schools is not a clear representation of the type of society we live in and it does not prepare individuals for it either,” stated Jerome. “We are taught to celebrate and show our respect to so many influential Canadian and Quebec figures because of the great impacts they had on history, yet, what most people don’t know about is the genocidal agenda they pushed to accomplish in order to call the land we stand on today Canada.”

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