Residential school survivor and founder of Orange Shirt Day Phyllis Webstad and Cariboo Regional Area F director Joan Sorley in Ottawa witnessed the vote passing in the House Of Commons to make National Truth and Reconciliation Day a statutory holiday. Photo submitted

Orange Shirt Day inspires Sept. 30 Truth and Reconciliation national holiday

Residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad and CRD Area F director Joan Sorley were in Ottawa for the vote

St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School survivor Phyllis Webstad witnessed history in Ottawa Wednesday.

Bill C-369, to make Sept. 30 a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation a statutory holiday, passed through the House of Commons on March 20 and will now move to the Senate before becoming law.

Orange Shirt Day, which is also marked on Sept. 30, was inspired by Webstad’s experience of having her brand new orange shirt taken away on her first day of school at St. Joseph’s Mission residential school near Williams Lake.

“It’s surreal,” she told the Black Press Media from Ottawa after the vote was passed. “We’ve made history and it was an honour to be here to witness the vote. Minister Jolibois hopes it will be passed by June.”

Her role in the bill was establishing Sept. 30th as the day for the statutory holiday, Webstad said.

“That is my connection to the bill. Of course it is not all about me, and thanks to the Orange Shirt Day Society, Joan and I were able to travel to Ottawa.”

Cariboo Regional District Area F director Joan Sorley travelled with Webstad to Ottawa to be present for the vote and said the fact the bill passed was “unbelievable.”

READ MORE: Webstad’s Orange Shirt story helps lead the way for truth and reconciliation

“We came outside saying, ‘Oh my God,’ and were jumping up and down and hugging each other,” Sorley said, adding the NDP and the Liberals voted in favour and the Conservatives, who led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, voted against the bill, including Cariboo Prince George MP Todd Doherty and Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod.

Before the vote, Webstad and Sorley met with Federal NDP MP Georgina Jolibois, who authored the bill.

They met her mother, family and staff.

“It was an honour to meet her,” Webstad said.

In a news release issued Wednesday, Jolibois said it was an important day for reconciliation in Canada.

“After 151 years of pain and suffering inflicted on First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people, there will now be a time to reflect and to build relationships to strengthen the Canadian society,” she noted. “With Justice Murray Sinclair who chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the Senate, I would expect this bill to go ahead without much opposition. I’m proud of the work we did to get this done. We heard from many First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people across the country who wanted this done. This is a big day for all of us.”

Chiefs of the Northern Secwepemc to Quelmucw were swift to congratulate Webstad.

“We are very proud of Phyllis, for her courage and for the great work she has done,” said Chief Patrick Harry, spokesman for NStQ and Chief of Stswecem’c Xgat’tem. “National Truth and Reconciliation Day will be another important step on the path to healing.”

A national day of recognition was one of the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said Tsq’escen Chief Helen Henderson.

“It is important to keep the conversation about residential schools going and to honour the victims,” Henderson said.

T’exelc Chief Willie Sellars thanked Webstad for her tireless work on behalf of residential school survivors, their families and their communities.

“It is important that we do not forget the legacy of these schools, and that the journey to reconciliation is one we must take together,” Sellars said.

Acting Xat’sull Chief Sheri Sellars said the legacy of residential schools exists.

“Taking one day a year to remember and pay honour to the victims is important, for their healing and for all of ours,” Sellars said.

Webstad also made presentations to two Catholic schools in Ottawa this week and she and Sorley will spend Thursday visiting the Assembly of First Nations before returning home on Friday.



news@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Oceanside RCMP officer makes Alexa’s Team

Munro able to stop and process 15 impaired motorists during the past year

Potty Mouth artist creating Funky Fungus

Parksville-Qualicum’s Carmen Lutz has people chuckling with her hand-made, rustic mugs

Qualicum Beach charity hosts fundraiser for Guatemalan students

Aldea Maya has been working in the Central American country since 2012

Parksville Lawn Bowling Club on a roll for artificial turf

Project to cost over $500,000 but will save club money

More Parksville pop-up water parks planned

Fire department says Sunday, Aug. 18 next one on the agenda

70 years of lifting: Canadian man, 85, could cinch weightlifting championship

The senior gym junkie is on track to win the World Masters Weightlifting championship

U16 B.C. fastpitch team named national champs

Girls went undefeated at national tournament in Calgary

Advocates ‘internationalize’ the fight to free Raif Badawi from Saudi prison

Raif Badawi was arrested on June 17, 2012, and was later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for his online criticism of Saudi clerics

Canadian entrepreneurs turning beer byproduct into bread, cookies and profits

Some breweries turn to entrepreneurs looking to turn spent grain into treats for people and their pets

Canada ‘disappointed’ terror suspect’s British citizenship revoked

Jack Letts, who was dubbed “Jihadi Jack” by the U.K. media, has been detained in a Kurdish prison for about two years

Chrystia Freeland condemns violence in Hong Kong, backs right to peaceful assembly

There have been months of protests in the semi-autonomous region

Most Read