Kenora Catholic schools recognized Orange Shirt Day today with a number of activities throughout the day to recognize the harm of the residential school system, and to confirm our commitment to ensuring that every child matters.
"I'm wearing an orange shirt today to support the girl who had her orange shirt taken away," said Grade 5 student at Ecole Ste-Marguerite Bourgeoys, Kolby Anderson. "She went to a residential school and she got this new orange shirt, a long time ago you didn't get new clothes a lot so it was really special when you do, and she had to take off her orange shirt. It was taken away from her and she never got it back."
Anderson tells the story of residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad. Her story inspired Orange Shirt Day, which is recognized across Canada, in the spirit of reconciliation. At SMB students attended an assembly where KCDSB Knowledge Carrier Isobel White and FNMI Coordinator Shelly Tom spoke about Phyllis's story.
At St. Thomas Aquinas High School students attended a ceremony which included a prayer and brief speech about Orange Shirt Day from White as well as drumming from members of the Whitefish Bay Singers who were joined by students and staff from TA.
Grade 12 student Avery Kasprick explains what she thinks about Orange Shirt Day.
"Our past includes residential schools, especially in Kenora, so as a community we need to acknowledge that. We need to have the mindset that every child matters. Back then every child didn't have a voice," she said.
After the ceremony guest speaker, Shakil Choudhury spoke to students about diversity by looking at where bias and racism stem from. At the end of the assembly, each student was given an orange on the way out. Tristan Houston is a Grade 12 student and he spoke about what Orange Shirt Day meant to him.
"If someone is excluded you welcome them in. You don't stereotype or put labels on others. Everyone came into this world the same way and no one should be excluded based on how they look or what they like," he said.
In the afternoon, TA students had the opportunity to walk to the Cecelia Jeffrey Residential School Memorial Park. They carried orange t-shirts and played hand drums along the walk. At the memorial, they heard from a Knowledge Carrier who attended Cecelia Jeffrey. Grade 9 student Antonie Skead explained what she took away from his conversation with the students.
"The stuff that the kids went through and what they did back then. It's something that happened a long time ago, but we should still hear about it," she said.
Across the school board, students and staff learned more about the impact of residential schools, all while donning their orange t-shirts.