Law Students learn about, promote significance of Orange Shirt Day
Orange Shirt Day is September 30 and Robson Hall students are helping to make sure that everyone knows! Manitoba’s Orange Shirt Day Act, which came into force in June of 2017 designates September 30 as a day of remembrance for Residential School Survivors to provide a way for Manitobans to publicly commemorate the history and legacy of Residential Schools and the resilience of Residential School Survivors, as a key aspect of the reconciliation process. In the recommendations flowing from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, now Senator Murray Sinclair called for a national day of remembrance. Indigenous children were historically taken from their homes to Residential Schools at the end of September which is why this date was chosen. The slogan for Orange Shirt Day is “Every Child Matters”.
Orange Shirt Day grew out of the 2013 St. Joseph Mission Residential School commemoration event in Williams Lake BC. Phyllis (Jack) Webstad of the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, shared her story of how her new orange shirt that her grandmother bought for her was taken away from her on her first day of school. She said she was left feeling that no one cared and her feelings of worthlessness and insignificance shaped her life until she began a healing process. She is now a proud mother and grandmother, a graduate of Business Administration and Accounting, and recognized for her unprecedented impact on local, provincial, national and international communities through the sharing of her orange shirt story.
Students in the Children, Youth and the Law course taught by Professor Lorna Turnbull are studying the rights of children and youth with a particular focus on the laws affecting them. The course is structured around Phase Three of the Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry Report “Achieving the Best for All our Children” and has an explicit focus on the history of colonialism and the Calls to Action one to five from the TRC. In every class we encounter stories like Phyllis’s and consider the structural racism that keeps Indigenous children and youth and their families and communities from achieving their best.
India Saxberg, a second-year law student taking the course, offered these thoughts: “Orange Shirt Day is important because Canada’s Indigenous children were horrendously affected by Residential Schools and every subsequent generation of children remains negatively impacted. This is evident when looking at the levels of Indigenous children in CFS care in Manitoba today. Orange Shirt Day helps to raise awareness of problems not only from the past but also the present. Every child matters and every child in care today needs to be reminded of that.”
Darren Pawella, also in second-year law, remarked that “understanding the past paves the way for a more inclusive future.”
The Nursing Students Association has organized an Orange Shirt Day walk on Fort Garry campus on Friday, September 28 at 10:30 a.m. from the Helen Glass Atrium.