by John Copley
(ANNews) – The City of Edmonton, Indigenous communities, Edmonton Public Schools (EPSB) and Edmonton Catholic Schools (ECSD) and the Society for Safe and Caring Schools and Communities (Safe and Caring) will join together this month to celebrate Orange Shirt Day. This initiative will take place in Edmonton’s City Hall from noon to 1 p.m. on Friday, September 30. Every Edmontonian is invited and encouraged to attend.
The collaboration of the school districts and the municipality will provide the opportunity for the city of Edmonton to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come.
“We look at this as a demonstration of unity and continued commitment towards reconciliation between schools, government and community,” explained Melissa Purcell, Supervisor, First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Education, EPSB.
“The goals of both school districts within Edmonton,” noted Purcell and Shirley Mykituk, who works with the ECSD’s Aboriginal Learning Services, “remain committed to reconciliation as we strive forward to support and enhance the educational experience and achievement of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit leaders.”
The nationally celebrated Orange Shirt Day event is a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission residential school commemoration event held in Williams Lake, BC, Canada, in the spring of 2013. The initiative came about after survivor Phyllis Webstad related an account of a traumatic experience when she was six years old; she had her brand new orange shirt taken away on the very day she arrived at the St. Joseph Mission residential school in Williams Lake.
September 30 was chosen as the date to host Orange Shirt Day because it is the time of year in which children were taken from their homes and placed into residential schools. It also provides an opportunity to set the stage for creating welcoming, caring, respectful and safe schools and communities for the coming school year.
Safe and Caring launched the 2016 Orange Shirt Campaign in May with a competition that challenged students to come up with a design for the new T-shirt. St. Albert High School graduate, Alyssa McArthur’s entry was selected as the logo for the 2016 Alberta Orange Shirt Campaign and is being featured on the front of the province’s Orange Shirt, “worn to honour residential school system survivors and to promote ongoing reconciliation.”
McArthur’s design was chosen from more than 375 submissions by a panel of judges that included First Nations community leaders, ATA (Alberta Teachers’ Association) representatives, and Safe and Caring staff.
“Safe and Caring Schools and Communities is honored to partner with the Alberta Teachers Association to lead the Orange Shirt Campaign in Alberta,” said Leslie MacEachern, “We are thrilled to have received so many submissions from all over the province. Recognizing the harm done to residential students demonstrates the commitment to participation in the work of reconciliation.”
Safe and Caring is a center for knowledge that fosters effective networks and partnerships to improve the quality of life for all Alberta children. Research, program evaluation, webcasts, policy consultation, workshops and speakers and evidence-based practices are some of the resources and services embraced by the organization.
Edmonton Public Schools (EPSB) has been holding Honouring Graduation Ceremonies in recognition of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit graduates as they pursue their educational goals since 2008. The 2016 Honouring Celebration was held at J. Percy Page High School on June 8.
Just five days earlier First Nations, Métis, & Inuit FNMI Education hosted a Reconciliation in Education event to celebrate the anniversary of the closing ceremony of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. A 31-minute video of the event can be found on the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Education, Edmonton Public Schools website.
Edmonton Public Schools hosts numerous annual events, workshops and special days of recognition that promote First Nations, Métis, and Inuit culture, tradition, achievement and reconciliation. One of these is the annual three-day visual arts workshop for First Nations, Métis, & Inuit junior high students with a First Nations, Métis, or Inuit artist participating and mentoring at their side. A one-day workshop is also held for their teachers. Well known and respected mentors who have participated in the annual workshops include George Littlechild, Aaron Paquette, Tanya Sehn, Suzanne McLeod, Linus Woods, Nathaniel Arcand, and Holly Rae Yuzicapi.
Click here for more information about the First Nations, Métis, & Inuit Education unit.