AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde on 5th Annual Orange Shirt Day: ‘Let’s Give Our Children Hope and Opportunity’

OTTAWA – To mark Orange Shirt Day on September 30, in honour of former students of the Indian residential schools, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde is asking all Canadians to learn more about this history, support meaningful change and affirm that ‘every child matters.’

“I’m proud to support Orange Shirt Day and raise awareness about that tragic time in Canada’s history when children were taken from their families and forced into residential schools,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “We remember the lasting harm they suffered, and commit to meaningful change to achieve reconciliation. Every child deserves to be with their families in a safe and loving environment. Let’s make that our goal, because every child matters.”

On the 5th Annual Orange Shirt Day, the AFN encourages everyone to learn more about this part of Canada’s history and to support measures that will change the situation for First Nations today.

“The residential schools may be gone but their legacy remains. There are too many children in the child welfare system. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled that thousands of First Nations kids are in a child welfare system that gets significantly less funding than their provincial counterparts,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “We need to support First Nations child welfare agencies and ensure Canada complies with the CHRT ruling to provide fair and equitable funding for First Nations children. With commitment and action, we can give our children hope and opportunity and a chance to succeed. That is good for all of Canada.”

Orange Shirt Day is marked every year on September 30, which evolved from the St. Joseph Mission Residential School Commemoration Project and Reunion events in Williams Lake, BC, in 2013. Phyllis Webstad shared a story from her time at residential school when her new orange shirt, a gift from her grandmother, was taken from her and it seemed no one cared. The orange shirt is now emblematic of the harm experienced by children in residential schools. The date is significant because it is this time of year when many children were taken from their homes to residential schools. September 30 is a day for remembrance, reflection, and reconciliation.

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