(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said that as Canada acknowledges Orange Shirt Day and Residential School Survivors, it must be acknowledged that the healing journeys of former students do not have a deadline and must continue to be respected and supported.
“Canada’s Residential Schools were an attempt at genocide, they had a severe negative impact on our cultures, our nations, our languages, and for reconciliation to occur, Canada must right this wrong and help the former students and our nations recover and heal from this tragic history.”
National Chief Bellegarde continued, “After everything Survivors have endured, it’s important that Canada recognizes that the IRS Resolution Health Support Program is essential. I stand with Survivors, their families, support workers and community organizations to advocate for the continuation of this program that helps so many with healing.”
On Orange Shirt Day, many Canadians and First Nations people wear orange as a reminder of the many First Nations children who were taken from their families and put in residential schools. Within the schools many suffered abuse and experienced the loss of their culture, language, and pride in who they are.
The day was begun by Phyllis Webstad, a young First Nations girl, who had her favourite orange shirt taken from her upon arriving at a residential school. Now she is a Survivor. The AFN honours the work Phyllis has done to have her story, and the stories of all the students of Residential Schools, heard through the creation of Orange Shirt Day
Dene National Chief and AFN Regional Chief for the Northwest Territories, Norman Yakeleya, holds the residential school file within the AFN, and said that we cannot change the past, but we can all be a part of changing the future.
“We wear orange in honour of all Indigenous people who, like Phyllis Webstad, faced senseless tragedies at residential school. Today, this colour helps us proclaim that every child matters and is deserving of safety, protection and love.”
Regional Chief Yakeleya added, “I am pleased Canada is recognizing that reconciliation is a lifelong journey by introducing legislation to establish a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. I will continue advocating with survivors for further actions to meaningfully commemorate this painful chapter of our shared history, including the construction of a national monument honouring residential school victims and survivors.”