PBI-Canada observes Orange Shirt Day, supports land defenders and water protectors
Peace Brigades International-Canada marked Orange Shirt Day on September 30.
The day is dedicated to raising awareness about the residential school system and its traumatic, inter-generational impact on Indigenous peoples in Canada.
Orange Shirt Day was inspired by the experience of residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad who, at age six, had a new orange shirt bought by her grandmother taken away on her first day at residential school in British Columbia.
We remember the genocide in this country in which 150,000 Indigenous children were stolen from their families and taken to residential schools, the 6,000 children who died at those schools and the intergenerational harm caused by this policy of forced assimilation. In 1931, there were 80 residential schools operating in Canada.
The last residential school wasn’t closed until 1996.
We also take note of the comment by Tanya Tagaq, an Inuk throat singer from Iqaluktuutiaq, Nunavut, who says: “A day is not enough. I lifetime is not enough. The foster care system is the new residential school program. People are still being killed. Wear your shirt today. Remember that tomorrow there is still blood on it.”
And we note the comments by Gabrielle Fayant, a Metis activist from Fishing Lake Metis Settlement, Alberta, who says: “On #OrangeShirtDay2020, I want Canadians to know that the intentions of genocide and assimilation from the Residential Schools never stopped. It literally morphed into Day Schools, Child Welfare, forced sterilization, destruction of lands and all other forms of systemic racism.”
Fayant adds: “If you believe that #EveryChildMatters, you have to support land defenders and water protectors who are fighting for every child now and 7 generations ahead.”
Global Witness has highlighted: “Indigenous peoples are at a disproportionate risk of reprisals. Last year, 40% of murdered defenders belonged to indigenous communities. Between 2015 and 2019 over a third of all fatal attacks have targeted indigenous people – even though indigenous communities make up only 5% of the world’s population.”
Peace Brigades International projects accompany Indigenous land defenders in Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras.