Filmed in advance, the virtual ceremony is emceed by Victoria Lea Pruden, an Âpihtawkosisân/Michif knowledge keeper and healing and cultural safety advocate from the Métis Nation. The ceremony includes a land acknowledgement, followed by the raising of the Victoria Orange Shirt Day flag and a moment of silence accompanied by 15 drum beats to honour those who did not survive residential schools. Visual artist and performer Nicole Mandryk sings the traditional Anishinaabe healing Bear Song.
Guest speakers include Tsartlip Elders May Sam and Skip Sam who share their personal experiences with residential schools and reconciliation. Sadly, Elder Skip Sam passed away shortly after filming.
Other special guests include Mayor Lisa Helps, Phyllis Webstad, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Aboriginal Health Physician Advisor Dr. Danièle Behn Smith, and Eddy Charlie and Kristin Spray who speak to the importance of raising awareness about residential schools to honour the more than 4,000 children who died, and the sacrifices that were made by 150,000 residential school survivors and their families across Canada.
The Orange Shirt Day: Every Child Matters initiative grew out of Phyllis Webstad’s account during a commemoration in Williams Lake, BC in 2013, of having her shiny new orange shirt taken away on her first day of St. Joseph Mission residential school. Since then, Orange Shirt Day has become an opportunity to keep the discussion happening about all aspects of residential schools.
Orange Shirt Day is an opportunity for Indigenous Peoples, local governments, schools and communities to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come. September 30 was chosen because it is the time of year in which children were taken from their homes to residential schools.