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Wab Kinew, MLA Fort Rouge
October 4, 2017

Orange Shirt Day

Madam Speaker, last week I was honoured to join students, teachers and even colleagues in recog-nizing the strength of residential school survivors on Manitoba’s first official Orange Shirt Day. I want to again thank all of the members of this House for passing the act recognizing Orange Shirt Day unanimously the last time we were sitting.

Orange Shirt Day started in BC under the slogan “every child matters.” It is inspired by the experience of Phyllis Webstad of the Stswecem'c Xgat'tem First Nation. An orange shirt given to Phyllis by her family was stripped from her when she arrived at St. Joseph Mission Residential School. That left Phyllis feeling humiliated and insignificant. As such the orange shirt represents what she lost in the residential school. Last week, thousands of people in our province wore orange shirts to commemorate all that Indigenous children lost in residential schools: language, culture, family… and sometimes, even their lives.

As Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Marie Wilson said many residential schools had “cemeteries but no playgrounds.” We have heard the horror stories of abuse, sexual assault and even experiments.

This year I watched as young Manitobans learned about this era in age appropriate ways. There was a lecture at Kelvin High School, a solemn march through the streets around Windsor Park Collegiate and an outdoor workshop with drums and dancing for kids from across Winnipeg School Division at the foot of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Madam Speaker, as kids of all backgrounds played in the sunshine last week I couldn’t help but think Orange Shirt Day is also about resilience and overcoming negativity with kindness. When Phyllis was a young girl she was taken from her family and made to feel ashamed. Today kids go to school to learn, be well and feel proud of who they are.

We may have further to go, but we are getting closer to living in a society where every child matters.