Calls continue call for Orange Shirt Day to become a national holiday

Dozens of people sit around four long tables, talking and tucking into pancakes topped with blueberries and maple syrup. Some are children, some are Elders; some are Indigenous, some aren’t — but every person wears an orange shirt.To Shirley Isbister, this is what reconciliation looks like — or at least the start of it.“I think that if we can all learn to live together, work together and play together, we’re going to be able to have a much stronger community,” said Isbister, who is president of the Central Urban Métis Federation Inc (CUMFI).“If we can’t bypass colour, culture, race, then how can our children be taught that?” Matt Smith / Saskatoon StarPhoenix Province, community groups rally behind ‘common vision’ for reconciliation Names of children who died in residential schools released in sombre ceremony Thousands walk for reconciliation on National Indigenous Peoples Day Residential school survivors honoured at annual flag raising Shirley Isbister is president of Central Urban Metis Federation Incorporated. CUMFI hosted a free community pancake breakfast to mark Orange Shirt Day, which honours residential school survivors, ’60s scoop survivors, day school survivors, families of MMIW and two-spirited peoples. Grief and loss counsellor Sandy Smokeyday prepares bannock at a free community pancake breakfast to mark Orange Shirt Day, which honours residential school survivors, ’60s scoop survivors, day school survivors, families of MMIW and two-spirited peoples, hosted by CUMFI. Georgina Jolibois, NDP Member of Parliament for Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River. Brad Bird, director of the reconciliation unit at Saskatoon Public Libraries and the son of a survivor, said the day is an opportunity to educate young people about the system’s legacy.“I don’t want my daughter to have to learn that alone,” he said. “I want to provide her with the opportunity to really understand the effects that it has. When we have rooms like this with people of all different backgrounds, ages and races, we come together, we learn together and we heal together.”Across town at Prairieland Park, hundreds of students from Saskatoon Public Schools attended a powwow hosted by Whitecap Dakota First Nation, where they were addressed by survivors of the residential school system. CUMFI joined organizations across the country in commemorating Orange Shirt Day, which honours survivors of the Indian residential school system that attempted to forcibly strip Indigenous peoples of their cultural identities.Story continues belowThis advertisement has not loaded yet,but your article continues below.Roughly 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were forced to attend residential schools during their more than 150 years of operation. Thousands died, and many others endured lasting abuse.Orange Shirt Day is inspired by the story of Phyllis Webstad, a six-year-old girl who received an orange shirt from her grandmother for her first day of class at St. Joseph Mission residential school near Williams Lake, B.C. in 1976. Staff took her shirt away. Isbister said she hopes the motion eventually passes — and that it will be more than just a day off.“I don’t just want it to be a national holiday,” she said. “I want it to be a day of learning, a day when people know why we’re having that holiday.”“It was a national tragedy that we all allowed to happen for 150 years,” Arcand said. “So why not make it a national holiday to commemorate those people who suffered?”[email protected]/zakvesceraRelated Dancers take part in the Grand Entry at the Welcome Back Wacipi Powwow hosted by Saskatoon Public Schools at Prairieland Park. Matt Smith / Saskatoon StarPhoenix Lorna Arcand, who works to promote reconciliation in Saskatoon, said honouring survivors who are still living is a crucial part of the day.“We honour them for the sacrifices they made on our behalf,” Arcand said. “And when I say ‘our,’ I mean society.”Many attendees said they feel Orange Shirt Day should become a statutory holiday. If it does, it would be the first and only one dedicated to Indigenous peoples in Canada.Georgina Jolibois, the NDP MP representing Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, proposed a bill in 2017 to make June 21 — National Indigenous Peoples Day — a national holiday.The Liberals reworked her bill, changing the date to Sept. 30 and renaming it. It then failed to pass before the federal election began. Matt Smith / Saskatoon StarPhoenix

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