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AUPE honours Residential School Survivors on Orange Shirt Day

Sept 30 is Orange Shirt Day, a time to recognize the lasting impact of Residential Schools on Indigenous peoples.

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EDMONTON – In honour of Orange Shirt Day, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) Human Rights Committee is inviting workers, their families and all Albertans to hold space for the lasting wounds inflicted on Indigenous members, friends and neighbours by Canada’s Residential School system.

Residential Schools operated from 1831 to 1996; however, their legacy is part of a much larger system of genocide, assimilation and violence that institutions still participate in today.

“The pain and trauma caused by the Residential School System is a wound that continues to be reopened for Indigenous people in our union, in this province, and beyond,” said AUPE Vice-President and Chair of the Human Rights Committee Karen Weiers.

“As Albertans, the time to come together and make room for the stories Indigenous folks share is long overdue. We need to join together in solidarity to challenge the power structures that try to silence them and undo the policies that violate Indigenous rights. Orange Shirt Day is just one day to prioritize this, but as healing is a long-term journey, so is undoing prejudice.”

Orange Shirt day started in 2013 in B.C., when the Secwepemc, Tsilhqot’in, Southern Dakelh and St’at’imc Nations, along with the municipalities, school districts and other organization in the Cariboo Region District, came together to honour survivors of the Residential School system and commemorate their experiences.

The name was inspired by Phylis (Jack) Webstad and her story.  Below is an excerpt, taken from the Orange Shirt Society’s website:

“When I got to the Mission, they stripped me, and took away my clothes, including the orange shirt! I never wore it again. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t give it back to me, it was mine! The color orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing.”

Residential schools were part of a compulsory program, where the Canadian government and churches partnered to remove Indigenous children from their families and communities, and destroy their cultures. The schools relied on severe discipline and abuse to erase Indigenous children’s identities and adopt Christian, European practices.

What You Can Do

AUPE’s Human Rights Committee encourages members and all Albertans to read the full story and hear others at wherearethechildren.ca/en/stories/.

“Canada’s long-history of cultural genocide has stolen generations, but the voices of those affected are not lost, and as a union we commit to ensuring they don’t go unheard.”

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