Brockville – Staff and students across the Upper Canada District School Board observed Orange Shirt Day on Friday, raising awareness about the harm caused to Indigenous peoples by the Residential School System.
Staff and students honoured victims and survivors of the system by wearing orange shirts. Board schools also featured presentations by Indigenous speakers, and organized class presentations and drumming workshops with an Algonquin elder.
Superintendent Jodie Barrett said the day was a way the Board could honour the spirit of the Calls to Action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
“I’m so proud of our staff and students for wearing orange,” said Barrett. “It’s another way we can help redress the tragic legacy of Canada’s Residential School System and move toward reconciliation and healing.
“The day helps our staff and students gain a deeper understanding of the impact of the system on our Indigenous partners, and will make certain future generations are aware of it, so we can learn from the mistakes of the past.”
Several schools held special events to mark the day including:
Pakenham Public School: Algonquin Elder Danka Brewer addressed classes during several workshops about the Residential School System. In age-appropriate discussions, Brewer talked about the system, how it impacted Indigenous families, and the abuse that occurred. Brewer also gave students a greater understanding of Indigenous culture by hosting Algonquin drumming workshops, and explaining the meaning of different Indigenous symbols. At the end of the day, all students gathered in the schoolyard for a group photo wearing their orange shirts.
Athens District High School: About 40 students and staff participated by wearing orange shirts. During the days leading up to the event, the school issued announcements that discussed truth and reconciliation, as well as the importance and symbolism of wearing an orange shirt.
Glengarry District High School: Bill Montgomery, Indigenous Education Lead with the Upper Canada District School Board, brought a message of awareness and empathy to students regarding events surrounding the Residential School System and Indigenous peoples that have shaped the relationships that exist today.