Phyllis Webstad’s Orange Shirt Day story, now a book, continues to inspire truth and reconciliation around Canada’s residential school legacy. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY: Webstad’s Orange Shirt story helps lead the way for truth and reconciliation

Webstad said the Orange Shirt movement has been divinely guided from the very beginning.

Residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad continues to be a beacon for truth and reconciliation in Canada and around the world.

Webstad’s story about having her new orange shirt taken away on the first day of residential school when she was six years old was the impetus for Orange Shirt Day, a national day of remembrance marked on Sept. 30.

Read more: Williams Lake students celebrate Orange Shirt Day

On March 20, she and Joan Sorley, Cariboo Regional District Area F director, will attend the House of Commons where MPs will vote on whether or not to make Sept. 30 National Truth and Reconciliation Day, a statutory holiday honouring victims of residential schools.

“I watched some of the debate last week and it looked like the MPs were in favour of it,” Webstad said.

In advance of the vote, Webstad and Joan Sorley, Cariboo Regional District Area F director, are travelling to Ottawa on March 18.

Webstad’s book, The Orange Shirt Story, was published last fall.

Read more:Williams Lake author and activist on a book tour for the fall

“On my book tour I did corporate presentations and went to schools, speaking to students from Grades K to 12,” she said. “One thing I left knowing from the school visits, was that our future is in good hands with the children. They are learning and understanding and they will make sure it doesn’t happen again. They have empathy.”

Looking back over the last six years to when she first shared her story, Webstad said the Orange Shirt movement has been divinely guided from the very beginning. “Something else is moving it along. It’s timely with what is happening for First Nations people in Canada. Now is the time for truth telling and opening the doors to conversations about the residential school legacy across Canada.”

Her story will also become the subject of a board book for two to five year olds, with the words told in rhyme, and published by Medicine Wheel Education.

“The pictures of me crying and the nuns will be removed for that version,” Webstad said.

Brock Nicol of Ottawa who illustrated the first book will also do the illustrations for the board book.

“I’ve never met Brock but will get to when we are in Ottawa,” Webstad added.

Webstad and Sorley will travel to Ottawa two days in advance of the House of Commons vote and are scheduled to visit two Catholic Schools in the capital where Webstad will give presentations.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism Pablo Rodriquez has also requested a meeting with them on March 20.

In April an Orange Shirt Day office will be opening in Williams Lake, Webstad said, noting it should be ready for a grand opening by May.



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