Orange Shirt Day Ceremony is Sunday, September 30 in Centennial Square

Orange Shirt Day: Every Child Matters is a grassroots event that acknowledges the harm that Canada's residential school system had on generations of Indigenous families and their communities. Every year on September 30, Canadians are asked to wear orange as a sign of support. 

Orange Shirt Day is an opportunity for First Nations, 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.

What's Happening?

The Orange Shirt Day ceremony will take place in Victoria on Sunday, September 30 from noon – 4 p.m. in Centennial Square. The free event will occur rain or shine. Please dress for the weather.

Emceed by Bridges for Women Executive Director Victoria Lea Pruden, the ceremony will consist of a First Nations blessing and welcome, followed by a flag raising and a moment of silence to honour and remember those who did not survive residential schools. Live music will be performed by the ANSWER Drum Group and singer Hannah Gentes.

Guest speakers will include representatives from the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations with storytelling by husband and wife team Alex and Nella Nelson. Alex was inducted in the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame for his work with the North American Indigenous Games and the Aboriginal Sports and Recreation Association of B.C. Nella Nelson recently retired having worked 40 years for the Victoria School District – 10 years as a teacher and 29 years as the district administrator for Aboriginal education.

They will be joined by Mayor Lisa Helps and representatives from the federal and provincial governments.

Event organizers Eddy Charlie and Kristin Spray will 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. There will also be an opportunity for those impacted by residential schools to be heard.

Authentic cuisine will be available for purchase from the Songhees Seafood and Steam food truck. The event will include complimentary treats courtesy of Red Barn and Discovery Coffee (while supplies last).

Wear Orange in Support

Wear orange on Sunday, September 30 (and to work or school on Friday, September 28) to help create awareness of the impact of residential schools on Indigenous families and communities across Canada.

View the Facebook event.

Where to Get Your Orange T-Shirt

Orange Shirt Day T-shirts designed by artist Bear Horne are available for $20 at the following locations:

  • Big Wheel Burger, Cook Street Village at 341 Cook Street
  • Big Wheel Burger, Westside Village at 172 Wilson Street
  • Big Wheel Burger, Gateway Village at 703-711 Vernon Avenue
  • Caffé Fantastico, 965 Kings Road (at Quadra Street)
  • delhi Restaurant, 2504 Government Street (at Bay Street)
  • Fernwood Yoga Den, 1311 Gladstone Avenue
  • Songhees Cultural Centre, 480 Belleville Street (located under the Robert Bateman Centre Gallery)

T-shirts will also be available for purchase at the event (cash only). All proceeds of T-shirt sales will go towards the production of more T-shirts to increase awareness of this important initiative.

Orange Shirt Day blankets and Phyllis Webstad's recently released children's book The Orange Shirt Day will also be available (cash only).

About

Orange Shirt Day: Every Child Matters grew out of Phyllis Webstad’s account of having her sparkly new orange shirt taken away on her first day of St. Joseph Mission residential school. She shared this story during a community commemoration in Williams Lake, BC in 2013.

At the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in Vancouver two weeks before, the Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair had encouraged Webstad to share her orange shirt story with others. Since then, Orange Shirt Day has become an annual opportunity to keep the discussion happening on all aspects of residential schools.

Residential school survivor Eddy Charlie and friend Kristin Spray are organizing the Orange Shirt Day: Every Child Matters event in Victoria, which they developed in 2015 while attending the Indigenous Studies program at Camosun College. For the second consecutive year, they are partnering with the City of Victoria and Bridges for Women Society to mark the City’s commitment to reconciliation. (Photo above: Eddy Charlie, Phyllis Webstad, Kristin Spray.)

Bios

Eddy Charlie
Eddy Charlie is a member of Cowichan Nation, a former student at Kuper Island Residential School, and a graduate of Indigenous Studies at Camosun College. He met Kristin Spray in the Indigenous Studies program and a strong bond formed during their learning. Together they developed the Orange Shirt Day event that took place in 2015 and 2016 at Camosun College.

Although there was fear and sadness in taking this step, Eddy felt that someone had to make the journey for others to see that healing could come through sharing and caring. Eddy feels that the start of healing can only come when we begin to acknowledge that the path we are walking is hurting our Nations. Orange Shirt Day is just one small step in that right direction.

Kristin Spray
In 2013, Victoria resident Kristin Spray attended the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Vancouver, where she was deeply affected by witnessing families share their residential school experiences. This motivated Kristin to enroll in the Indigenous Studies program at Camosun College. It was while in the program, Eddy and Kristin met and became friends. 

Together they have worked to raise awareness about residential schools and to honour survivors and their families. One of their proudest achievements is bringing Orange Shirt Day to Camosun College and now to the City of Victoria.

Victoria Lea Pruden
Victoria Lea Pruden has a passion for promoting healing and awareness about impacts of trauma, and loves to work and advocate for people impacted by abuse and trauma. Since 2012, Victoria has been the Executive Director at Bridges for Women Society and has worked for the society for over 12 years in various roles including front line, program development, and management. She has presented to many groups, community partners, and sister agencies about Bridges’ trauma-informed programs and the specialized work that Bridges does creating a legacy of transformative change.

Victoria is very proud of Bridges’ strong community partnerships with First Nations in W’SANEC, the Métis Nation, and the dynamic changes in Bridges programs to be responsive to the needs of First Nations Women in community and Indigenous women living in urban communities. Victoria is a dedicated volunteer and leader in the Métis community, and was elected in 2016 to the office of Provincial Women’s Chairperson in the Métis Nation British Columbia.

She is proud to have worked on many healing, culture and language projects over the years with Métis elders, and continues to work on keeping Métis culture, language, and teachings alive. She is the mother of an 11 year old boy, Kwennis Pruden Ladret. She enjoys painting, beading, reading, writing, connecting with other Indigenous people, and learning from elders she is blessed to call friends. She is profoundly honored to live in the traditional territory of the Sincoten and Lekwungen speaking peoples, on unceded Coast Salish Territory, in Saanich, BC.

Alex Nelson
Alex Nelson is a proud member of the Musgamagw-Dzawataineuk First Nations in Kincome Inlet, British Columbia. He maintains a strong family foundation with his wife Nella of 44 years, daughter Natasha, and grandsons Gigalis and Braden. Although the family has resided in Victoria for the past 44 years, the family connection to Alert Bay and Kingcome Inlet has always remained strong. This has been enhanced through the opening of their home and hearts to care for 29 First Nations children and youth from the home communities. In the past few years, Alex served on the Dzawaitaneuk First Nations Band Council for two terms, it was his desire to give back to his community and to be present in Kingcome Village.

Alex is a seven-year product of the Alert Bay residential school system. He is also a survivor of his son’s suicide in 1989. As a Cedar Man (Hamatsa) with a hereditary Chief's position through his dad Henry Nelson he remains strongly connected to his family, community and culture, and his strong cultural background has been reinforced by his Nelson family’s last four potlatches.

Alex holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Leisure Studies Administration from the University of Victoria. He is one of the founders of the Aboriginal Sports & Recreation Association of B.C., which was incorporated in 1989. At this time, it was the only recognized aboriginal sports organization in Canada, and he travelled to the Yukon, Alberta and Ontario to share this successful organizational model. Alex is also a founder of the National Aboriginal Sports Circle [a national sports organization] and was the first Chairperson for the North American Indigenous Games when the original bid package handbook and constitution/bylaws were developed. He is Chairman of the North American Indian Games Council, and took 600 young athletes to Winnipeg in July, 2002 to compete in the North American Indian Games.

He was instrumental in establishing reporting relations with the First Nations Summit Group and Friendship Centres, and was one of the founders of the Kwaguilth Urban Suicide Prevention & Intervention Group. He conducted community and self-help suicide prevention workshops for 18 years and still remains committed to be on call 24 hours a day. Alex is also currently working part time as an Elder with Surrounded By Cedar Child and Family Services, an Aboriginal urban delegated agency, this connection to children in care can be linked to his experiences in residential school as a child in care of the system. He knows that connection, ceremony and a sense of place and belonging are important to all children and if he can support that in any way he will be there. Says Alex, “My responsibility is to give to the next generation what sport has given to me.”

Nella Nelson
Nella Nelson is a member of the Tsawataineuk Band of the Kwakwaka'wakw Nation, and is originally from the N’amgis Nation of Alert Bay, B.C. She is a mother, grandparent and great grandparent. Nella has worked for the Greater Victoria School District for the past 39 years.

Nella was a high school history teacher and counsellor for 10 years and is presently the District Administrator for the Aboriginal Nations Education Division for the Greater Victoria School District, a position she has held for 29 years.She is also currently a guest lecturer at UVIC Faculty of Education, Camosun College and other community events. Nella is a very active member in the Aboriginal community. She sits as a board member on a number of local and provincial Boards and Advisories including the Indigenous Advisory Council at Camosun College and the UVIC Faculty of Education.

Nella was seconded by the Ministry of Education to work on the curriculum teams that developed the First Nations Studies Framework for the province. These teams completed the Integrated Resource Package for B.C. First Nations Studies 12, Shared Learnings and the Provincial Support Handbook for First Nations Workers and most recently she has completed a children’s book titled “Welcome Friends and Families to Our Bighouse”.

In 1994, Nella received the Queen’s 125 Commemorative Medal for community service. In 1998, she was awarded the YM/YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Education, Training and Development. In 2009, she received the Camosun College Distinguished Alumni Award and in 2013 received the Excellence in Cultural Heritage & Diversity Award from the Representative for Children & Youth.