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Optimism, gratitude, and painful memories at B.C. events on Orange Shirt Day


Thousands of British Columbians donned orange shirts and listened attentively at events marking the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, with many Indigenous leaders expressing appreciation and optimism that the country is at a turning point.

Survivors of residential schools, their children, grandchildren, and other family members shared grim stories of abuse and anti-Indigenous racism that are being heard in a new and impactful way, which many credit to the discovery of up to 215 possible unmarked graves on the grounds of an historic residential school in Kamloops in 2021. 

“I think Canadians have awakened, and this is an absolutely wonderful thing, because for a long time, Indigenous people have been the poorest demographic in Canada, the least educated, the least supported,” said Dana-Lyn Mackenzie, co-leader of an intergenerational march and gathering at UBC.

“I’m so hopeful now.”

The event drew thousands of people to the campus to listen to First Nations speakers, observe traditional song and dance, and continue their education on cultural and social issues. The event was full of families, including Premier David Eby with his own.

Kadence Cave, a UBC student and cultural educator, was there with her infant son and suggested age-appropriate discussions with children can start with something as simple as a story book.

“It's starting the journey, and as children grow, then we can start introducing more traumatic things that've happened in the past that's brought us to where we are now,” she said.

Musqueam elder Doris Fox described the day as supporting those who survived the horrors of the residential school system, while memorializing those who didn’t.

“When I look out here and I see these shirts, it lifts my heart, lifts my spirit,” she said, her voice thick with emotion as she looked at the massive gathering.

Across B.C., flags were at half-mast to recognize the day, and in White Rock, First Nations drummers and singers led another march of more than a thousand people along the waterfront.

At Trout Lake in East Vancouver, a crowd hundreds strong heard about dark chapters in Canada’s history, which was deeply appreciated by many Indigenous leaders.

“It’s a multi-cultural thing here and people are witnessing and getting educated,” said educator Randy Tait. “It shows their respect and their love and their compassion."

Jenna Forbes with the Vancouver Aboriginal Transformative Justice Society described many of the gestures as acts of reconciliation, but cautioned “it needs to be a gentle process, because it’s an emotional process.” Top Stories

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