(Ottawa, ON): Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde today marked the annual Orange Shirt Day in recognition of the harm caused by Indian residential schools with a message that First Nations children matter and that reconciliation must include a commitment to every single child.
“On this Orange Shirt Day I challenge First Nations, every Canadian and federal party leaders to demonstrate through concrete action that every child in this country matters,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “Each and every one of us must commit ourselves to reconciliation and ensure there is no further harm done to First Nations children and families. We must commit to First Nations control of First Nations education so that our children get the best education possible and that it values their languages and identities. With commitment and action, together we can and will close the gap by creating a new environment that strengthens First Nations families and communities and ensures that every child thrives. Every single child must know that his/her voice, dreams, and success matters.”
September 30 marks Orange Shirt Day, recognized annually as a way to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and to affirm that every child matters. It grew from the St. Joseph Mission Residential School Commemoration Project and Reunion events in Williams Lake, BC May 2013. It was at this event that former residential school student, Phyllis Webstad, shared a personal story about her time at residential school. At only six years of age she had her new orange shirt, a gift from her grandmother, taken from her. She spoke powerfully of how it seemed to her that no one cared and how it now speaks to the many harms experienced by children in residential schools. The date is significant because it is this time of year when many children were taken from their homes to residential schools.
Every person in this country has the opportunity to drive change on October 19,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “The human and economic costs of maintaining the status quo are as astounding as they are unnecessary. We must commit to do better as a country. First Nations priorities must become Canada’s priorities because when we succeed, all of Canada succeeds.”
For more information on First Nation priorities for the upcoming federal election and on Closing the Gap in quality of life between First Nations people and Canadians please visit: http://www.afn.ca/uploads/files/closing-the-gap.pdf
For more information on Orange Shirt Day please visit: http://orangeshirtday.weebly.com/