Every child matters.

That’s what Orange Shirt Day wants people to remember. It started out as a commemoration of Indigenous children who were taken from their families and forced to go to residential schools.

This year marks the third time Campbell River will be participating in Orange Shirt Day. 

John Powell, chair of the Kwakiutl District Council, says the event has grown quite a bit since the first time it came to town. He says while he’s happy that more people are aware of it, he also says there’s still a long way to go in terms of reconciliation. 

“When we talk about reconciliation I think we need to consider that there are a whole lot of factors that play into that situation. And probably the key one among them now is the removal of children from their families, from their communities, from their language, and from their culture when they’re taken to the Ministry of Children and Family Development. It changes peoples’ lives,” he said.

“We want to do everything that we can to keep our children safe and to keep our children at home in their communities.”

Powell says he understands it’s not always possible to keep children in their families or in their communities, but that’s another aspect that panels during Orange Shirt Day touch on. 

“We know that sometimes children are in danger or are in a neglectful situation through no fault of their parents’. Their lives have been traumatized, their parenting skills have been taken away through things like residential schools and so to expect someone to just raise a child without having been raised themselves, without ever having their parents teach them right from wrong, it’s almost impossible for somebody to envision what it is to be a good parent.”

“And so I think one of the things that Orange Shirt Day – or reconciliation – talks about is looking at what are the skills that parents need, how can the community support them, what other resources can we provide in order to make the lives of the children better and more connected to their communities, their families, to their culture, to their language, to their ways of being?” 

Powell says people who want to participate can expect a cultural gathering, starting off at the Kwanwatsi Big House. He says this is an important part of the day as it gives a history of what Indigenous communities experienced and how those events have affected their cultures. 

After that, there will be dancing and drumming and other speeches at Spirit Square. 

He says seeing hundreds of people wearing orange shirts walking from the Big House to Spirit Square is a good visual because it makes people slow down and ask questions. He adds it makes sharing easier. 

Orange Shirt Day will be on September 27th. The day will start off at 11:30 am.