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'Every Child Matters': Orange shirt campaign comes to Edmonton

Orange Shirt Day was inspired by Phyllis Jack Webstad, a Stswecem'c Xgat'tem First Nation elder in Williams Lake, B.C., and by her first day at residential school in 1973, when she was six. On the first day at the school, Webstad’s brand new orange shirt was taken away by residential school staff. It was never returned to her.

'Orange shirt day is inspiring reconciliation and inclusion across our city and starting conversations ...'

Orange shirt day remembers impact of residential schools

5 years ago
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A ceremony was held at Edmonton's city hall on Friday to raise awareness of residential schools and to continue the reconciliation process. 1:27

City Hall was awash in orange shirts Friday. 

Orange Shirt Day is intended to show solidarity and remember what happened to First Nations students at residential schools across Canada.

It was inspired by Phyllis Jack Webstad, a Stswecem'c Xgat'tem First Nation elder in Williams Lake, B.C.

On her first day at residential school in 1973, when she was six, her  new orange shirt was taken away by staff. It was never returned to her. 

Though the event has run in B.C. since 2013, this was the first time 'Every Child Matters' orange shirt campaign was held in Alberta.

In Edmonton, it was a partnership among the City of Edmonton, Safe and Caring Schools, Edmonton Public School Board and Edmonton Catholic School Board. 

Jerry Wood, a residential school survivor, tells his story at Edmonton City Hall. (CBC)

The day is meant to provide an opportunity to "share stories and create awareness about the impacts and legacy of residential schools in Canada," Coun. Bev Esslinger said at City Hall during the campaign's launch.

 "Orange shirt day is inspiring reconciliation and inclusion across our city and starting conversations in places where it was never discussed before."

Jerry Wood, a residential school survivor who spoke at the launch, said ,he welcomes the campaign and is also glad that the history of residential schools will start being taught in Alberta schools. 

"With their new curriculum, every Albertan will know about residential schools," said Wood. 

"It's not something that's going to happen overnight. It won't be in my lifetime, but at least people are aware of it."

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