Indigenous leaders condemn misappropriation of Orange Shirt Day by protest convoy
'The Orange Shirt Society does not endorse the recent announcement of Orange Shirt Day occurring on Feb. 11'
The founder of the Orange Shirt Society has denounced the misappropriation of Orange Shirt Day by Freedom Convoy protesters.
On Feb. 10, protest leaders declared Friday an "orange shirt day" and called for student walkouts to end COVID-19 restrictions in schools.
Orange Shirt Day, and what is now the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, falls on Sept. 30. It's a day to honour those who died in the residential school system, survivors and their families.
It began in 2013 after Orange Shirt Society founder Phyllis Webstad publicly shared her story of wearing an orange shirt to her first day at St. Joseph's Mission Residential School near Williams Lake, B.C.
"Orange Shirt Day with the phrase 'Every Child Matters' is a cause focusing on the importance of Truth and Reconciliation," Webstad said in a statement.
"With this in mind, the Orange Shirt Society does not endorse the recent announcement of orange shirt day occurring on Feb. 11 by protest organizers."
Earlier this week, the First Nations Leadership Council put out a statement condemning the convoy in general, and calling for a stronger response to the racism and aggression displayed by some protesters.
"As evidenced by the destructive, anarchic displays of anti-vax sentiments, as well as the state of emergency recently declared by Ottawa, the so-called 'Freedom Convoy' has sown division, intolerance, and misinformation during a time in which we cannot afford to have vaccine mandates and public health and safety endangered," Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said in a statement.
The council noted that Indigenous people have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, and mandates and restrictions are helping to keep communities safe.
Leaders disappointed, disturbed
Williams Lake First Nation Chief Willie Sellars told CBC that he is disappointed with the misuse of Orange Shirt Day, and that the last thing he wants the movement to be associated with is political initiatives, such as the protest convoy.
"It takes away from the true meaning and inspiration of what Orange Shirt Day stands for," he said.
Terry Teegee, Regional Chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, says he too is disappointed, and found the co-opting of Orange Shirt Day "disturbing."
"This movement, which has really racist undertones, is trying to utilize a legitimate movement that began many years ago for its own purposes," Teegee said.
The Chiefs of the Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw also put out a statement Friday calling on supporters of Orange Shirt Day and Every Child Matters to end the anti-Indigenous behaviour at these protests.
"The Freedom Convoy has aligned itself with anti-Indigenous rhetoric and behaviours and does not reflect the movement of Orange Shirt [Day], Every Child Matters, nor do the statements and the representations being made by this group on social media, reflect any semblance of free, prior and informed consent," the group said.
With files from Belle Puri