Phyllis Webstad, founder of Orange Shirt Day, speaks in Vancouver about the significance of toy footballs given out by the B.C. Lions in 2014 to mark the event for residential school survivors. (B.C. government video)

Phyllis Webstad, founder of Orange Shirt Day, speaks in Vancouver about the significance of toy footballs given out by the B.C. Lions in 2014 to mark the event for residential school survivors. (B.C. government video)

B.C. Lions unveil special logo for National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Orange Shirt Day founder recalls team’s inspiration

Orange T-shirts will be handed out to the first 10,000 people attending the B.C. Lions-Saskatchewan Roughriders game in Vancouver Sept. 24, to mark the approach of the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30.

Phyllis Webstad, a former student at the St. Joseph Mission Residential School at Williams Lake and the founder of Orange Shirt Day in 2013, told a news conference in Vancouver Thursday how a kind gesture by the CFL team eight years ago has led to a tribute game at B.C. Place next week.

“For two years in a row, they gave us these little footballs to give out in Williams Lake and 100 Mile House,” Webstad said Sept. 16. “We got footballs like this, and when I saw the football, it was a dream for me, an idea that I had that maybe survivors and their families could go to one of these football games and be honoured there. And they could know what happened to us and bring that to a lot of people.”

The B.C. Lions are also providing game tickets to 350 residential school survivors, in an event co-sponsored by the Ending Violence Association of B.C., B.C. Hydro and FortisBC. An Indigenous rendition of the team logo has been designed by Kwakwaka’wakw-Tlingit artist Corrine Hunt for the occasion.

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Premier John Horgan attended the announcement and said it is an opportunity to learn about the need for reconciliation with Indigenous people.

“I encourage everyone in B.C. to not only wear their orange shirts, but to also take time to consider the ongoing impact of residential schools, because every child matters,” Horgan said.

“Every child matters” has become a well-known phrase since May, when Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Chief Rosanne Casimir confirmed 215 unmarked graves at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. It was coined by Webstad, who described the origin of Orange Shirt Day, when she was sent to mandatory school at the age of six.

“My grandmother took me to town, to Williams Lake, to buy me something new to wear, even though she knew it would be taken away,” Webstad said. “She made sure that we looked our best. And when I got to St. Joseph Mission Residential School, about 20 minutes out of Williams Lake, my orange shirt was taken and I never wore it again.”

@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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