School Board trustees had a lot of questions regarding Orange Shirt Day events
The president of the Richmond Teachers’ Association says she was surprised to learn at least two school trustees had little knowledge of a na
tion-wide day to remember the wrongs done to Indigenous people at residential schools.
President Liz Baverstock told the Voice she was saddened by how little Trustees Jonathan Ho and Ken Hamaguchi knew about Orange Shirt Day during Sept. 27’s Richmond School Board meeting.
“How can they not know that?” President Liz Baverstock said after Hamaguchi asked Musqueam researcher and outreach coordinator Terry Point if Orange Shirt Day is related to the annual Walk for Reconciliation which was held this past Sunday, Sept. 17.
As stated on the Orange Shirt Day website, Orange Shirt Day “events were designed to commemorate the residential school experience, to witness and honour the healing journey of the survivors and their families, and to commit to the ongoing process of reconciliation,” and is a separate celebration from the walk.
“Orange shirt day is actually on Saturday, the 30, which is when indigenous children were taken from their schools” Marie Radcliff answered when Trustee Ho asked if Friday’s Orange Shirt Day was only being held in Richmond, not realizing it has been a cross-country event since 2013.
“For some people, they never went to school here so you can understand that if all you ever did was go to school in the Lower Mainland, you may have not had any exposure at all because it wasn’t in your community,” Baverstock said toward the end of the meeting.
“There are different levels of interest in it so I am not surprised that many people, including trustees, are not fully aware of the history behind Orange Shirt Day,” founder of Orange Shirt Day, Phyllis Webstad said during a phone call with The Voice.
“That is why we created the events, to keep the conversation going at least annually is a great place to start.”
In a news release on Sept. 21, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Scott Fraser said, “Wearing an orange shirt doesn’t erase the trauma, but it can raise awareness of experiences that Indigenous children should never have endured and whose impact Indigenous families still live with today.”
Fraser said in an email to the Voice that improving outcomes for Indigenous students is one of his highest priorities.
“While the graduation rate in B.C. is about 84%, our results for Indigenous students still lag behind by 20% at 64%,” Fraser said, “We are working with Indigenous organizations and school districts to develop full-course offerings in Indigenous languages, and we will work closely with FNESC (the First Nations Education Steering Committee) and Indigenous communities around the province to send their best and brightest to the faculties of education at our universities.”