Thank you and good morning. Weyt-kp, hello to everyone. My name is Phyllis Webstad. I'm from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, the Canoe Creek/Dog Creek First Nation, in Secwepemc, Shuswap, territory. Stswecem'c Xgat'tem is approximately one and a half hours southwest of Williams Lake, B.C.
Kukstemcw, thank you for the invitation to speak on Bill C-369, regarding National Indigenous Peoples Day.
It is my story of losing my shiny orange shirt that has spread across Canada and beyond. September 30, Orange Shirt Day, is bringing awareness of the history of Indian residential schools and the impact on the generations. It is a day to honour residential school survivors and their families, and remember those who never made it home or have since passed.
Orange Shirt Day is all about reconciliation. It was born out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the TRC, event in Williams Lake, B.C., in May 2013. Our theme was “Remembering, Recovering and Reconciling”. First nations, local government, schools and the RCMP all came together to hear the truth from residential school survivors. Chief Justice Sinclair challenged us to keep the conversation happening after the TRC event in May 2013 was over. I was part of the planning for our TRC event, where I told my story of my orange shirt for the first time.
In July 1974, I turned six years old. The age of six was when children in my family were taken away, and I was no different. My grandmother, whom I lived with until the age of 10, brought me to town, to Williams Lake, to choose something for my first day of school. I picked out a shiny orange shirt. When I got to the residential school, my clothing was taken away and I never wore my shirt again. That was the story that I told at our TRC event.
We picked September 30 because September was the time when children were taken away from their homes. We chose the 30th to give teachers time to settle into their classrooms, to prepare an event and to teach the children about the history of residential schools. At the last TRC event in Vancouver in May 2013, I heard an elder say that September was “crying month”. I knew then that we had chosen the right day. If September 30 falls on a weekend, the schools or communities can have the event before or after the 30th.
Our slogan, “every child matters”, comes from my story of how I felt, at residential school, that I didn't matter. When we talked more about it, we realized it fit for all residential school survivors, that they matter as children being taken away. It also fit for those children who never returned home. They matter, too. On the day of reconciliation, every child matters. It fits in the current day, and it's inclusive of all people to find a better way forward together.
This past year I published a book. This is the French version. It's called The Orange Shirt Story. It's available in English, French and Shuswap. It was on the bestseller list in Canada for most of September.
Regarding TRC recommendation number 80, I've gone over and over the wording of the recommendation, and it is specific to residential schools. June 21 is a day of celebration, and a celebration of indigenous peoples overall. It's an overarching day for indigenous people. Orange Shirt Day on September 30 is a fit for the implementation of TRC call to action number 80, as Orange Shirt Day is a day to honour and remember residential school survivors and their families and those who have passed on. I'm not here to advocate for any particular day. Both days are important.
Honourable members, we the Orange Shirt Society hope you decide that Orange Shirt Day will be a nationally recognized day. September 30, 2019 will be the seventh Orange Shirt Day.
Kukstemcw. Thank you for having me.