Qualicum First Nation held its Orange Shirt Day celebration Friday (Sept. 28).
The children from the Qualicum Child Care facility, Qualicum First Nation chief Michael Recalma and band office staff, Qualicum Beach mayor Teunis Westbroek, Parksville Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell, Oceanside RCMP detachment Staff Sgt. Marc Pelletier and Auxiliary Const. Michael Dally joined the nation in recognizing the special day in honour of Phyllis Jack Webstad, a residential school survivor who had her brand-new orange shirt taken from her on the first day of school and never returned.
Orange Shirt Day gives the 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. Official Orange Shirt Day is on Sept. 30, however the Qualicum First Nation celebrated early.
“This is about relationship, that’s the way I see it,” said Recalma. “You never really get over it but you have to move forward and this is a way of showing we are working together.”
In its sixth year, Orange Shirt Day promotes awareness and education about the residential school system, its impact on Indigenous communities across the country, and emphasizes “Every Child Matters,” the event’s slogan.
In the 1800s and continuing for more than a century, Indigenous children from coast to coast were taken from their homes and sent away to live in residential schools: government-funded, religious boarding schools that attempted to assimilate aboriginal children any way they could.
“I don’t think you should ever forget it,” said Dally, who to this day finds it difficult to understand why this happened. “When you look at people a hundred years ago, 30 years ago, they are not the same people we are today. Life is a journey and part of that journey is educating ourselves and becoming better people. And now we know as better people, and more educated people that what happened in the past was wrong. It should have never happened. This is our chance to fix it and make sure that by learning from history it never happens again.”