CFL football players will wear orange in honour of Residential School Survivors

Bringing the Message of Truth and Reconciliation to the Football Field

At their match up on Sept. 24 at BC Place Stadium, professional football players from the BC Lions and the Saskatchewan Roughriders will be wearing orange spatting as part of their uniforms in recognition and respect for Canada’s first-ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – a newly established federal statutory holiday that will be held Sept. 30. Since 2013, this date has been marked as Orange Shirt Day in recognition of survivors of Canada’s Indian Residential School System and their families.

The BC Lions Football Club is providing 350 tickets to residential school survivors and other Indigenous partners for the game, which will be attended by thousands of people and watched in tens of thousands of homes across the country. This initiative is the result of a unique partnership between the Orange Shirt Society, the BC Lions Football Club, the Ending Violence Association of BC and Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc.

The first 10,000 fans in attendance that evening will receive, free of charge, a commemorative orange t‑shirt through the support of game sponsors, the Government of British Columbia, BC Hydro and FortisBC. Featuring a stylized rendition of the BC Lions logo created by Kwakwaka’wakw/Tlingit artist Corrine Hunt and the Orange Shirt Society’s official slogan “Every Child Matters,” the partners hope that these shirts will be worn on September 30 in support of the need for truth and reconciliation in Canada. This partnership is also supporting a $20,000 donation to the Orange Shirt Society for their 2021 campaign.

“On Orange Shirt Day, we recognize the generational trauma that Indigenous peoples continue to experience to this day. We honour the resilience and strength of survivors, families and communities across the country,” said Premier John Horgan.

“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.”

“By now it’s no secret that thousands of Indigenous children across the country did not make it home from school. My grand-parents attended St-Michael’s, Brandon, and Elk-Lake Indian Residential Schools. Today is an invitation to learn more about what happened to Indigenous children at these schools, and the importance of wearing an orange shirt as your statement of solidarity with elders, and intergenerational survivors. This power-house partnership is reconciliation in action,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport, also known by her Nisga’a name as Hli Haykwhl Ẃii Xsgaak.

Orange Shirt Day is a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission Residential School Commemoration Project and Reunion events that took place in Williams Lake, BC, in May 2013. Phyllis Webstad, as a spokesperson for the group leading up to the events, told the story of her first day at residential school when her new orange shirt, bought by her grandmother, was taken from her as a six-year-old girl. Webstad, Founder and Ambassador for the Orange Shirt Society, shared her excitement about the partnership:

“I look very forward to the event at BC Place Stadium to honour residential school survivors and to witness a sea of orange!” said Webstad. “From the very beginning, Orange Shirt Day was created to honour residential school survivors and their families and to remember those that didn’t make it; this event will do just that.  It’s been a dream of mine to have this happen since Orange Shirt Day started, and now it’s happening, I cannot wait for the day!”

The establishment of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation comes as Canadians reflect on the confirmations of unmarked graves at residential school sites across the country, including 215 children buried at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. Commenting on this collaboration, Kukpi7/Chief for Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Rosanne Casimir said:

“Since May 27, the world has been bearing witness to the Indian Residential School Survivors finally being heard. After years of silence and disbelief, Kamloops Indian Residential School survivors’ first-hand knowledge about the deaths of children in the residential school has been confirmed These missing children in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc caretaking, may have experienced unthinkable circumstances leading to their death and whose remains were placed in unmarked graves. Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc is mapping a way forward to bring peace to the missing children, their families, and their communities.

These are important truths about Indigenous People and Canada. Residential Schools have been referred to as a historic dark chapter in our country’s history, but Indigenous people still live with the repercussions today. Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc is honoured to collaborate with the BC Lions, the Ending Violence Association of BC and the Orange Shirt Society to create awareness around the very first National Truth and Reconciliation Day, also known as Orange Shirt Day.

We extend our deep appreciation to the BC Lions and to the Ending Violence Association of BC for standing in solidarity with Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc during this time of heart wrenching truths. It’s time that we all embrace our real collective history, recognize mistakes, and learn from the past.

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