MONCTON (GNB) – Students and educators across the province participated in Orange Shirt Day today to recognize former students of residential schools and promote anti-bullying and anti-racism initiatives.

“All New Brunswickers are encouraged to participate in Orange Shirt Day events,” said Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Brian Kenny. “The initiative allows educators to discuss residential schools with students while fostering a culture of inclusion and diversity.”

While the day was marked in schools today, Kenny invites all New Brunswickers to participate in Orange Shirt Day on its official date, Saturday, Sept. 30.

In June, the provincial government signed a memorandum of understanding with seven First Nation communities respecting First Nations education and the calls to action as set out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The memorandum recognizes that First Nations have a right to practise their language and culture, and to fully participate socially and economically in society without discrimination or prejudice. It also recognizes the calls to action as set out by the commission have been accepted by Canada’s premiers through the Council of the Federation, and also by the federal government.

“Orange Shirt Day acknowledges the hardship that Canada’s residential school system has caused for generations of indigenous families and their communities,” said Treasury Board President Roger Melanson, who is also the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs. “In commemoration of Orange Shirt Day, and in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come, we would like to unite with all members of the community in honouring residential school survivors, their families and the children who were lost.”

The government’s 10-year education plans aim to improve educational outcomes and better prepare young people for the future. They set objectives in priority areas to create lifelong learners, support educational leaders and bring stability to the system. One of the objectives in the plans is to meet the needs of First Nations learners and ensure that provincial curriculum reflects First Nations history and culture. The plan also works to ensure all learners value diversity and have a strong sense of belonging while learning in a safe, welcoming and affirming environment.

Background on Orange Shirt Day

Phyllis (Jack) Webstad attended the St. Joseph Mission Residential School for one year in 1973-74 when she was six years old. On her first day at the school, she was stripped and the new orange sweater her grandmother had bought for her was taken from her. She said the experience robbed her of the excitement of starting school and left her feeling worthless. Webstad now works to encourage meaningful discussions about residential schools and their legacy. Her story and the stories of other students of residential schools are shared every year on Orange Shirt Day.