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Editorial: A step in the right direction

B.C. will formally recognize National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
Orange Shirt Day founder Phyllis Webstad from the Stswecem΄c Xgat΄tem First Nation lives in Williams Lake, B.C. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

The province announced this week that B.C. will formally recognize National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with a new statutory day of commemoration.

The move is in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action No. 80, which calls on the federal government to establish a holiday to honour survivors, their families and communities. If passed, British Columbia will join Canada, Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the Yukon as jurisdictions that have designated Sept. 30 as a statutory holiday.

Residential school survivor and Orange Shirt Day founder Phyllis Webstad, who lives in Williams Lake, has been championing for this day long before it ever became a topic of national, even global, discussion.

“One day there will be no survivors left in Canada. What is forgotten is often repeated,” Webstad said.

Webstad was just six years old when she had her new orange shirt that her grandmother bought her taken away when she arrived at the St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School near Williams Lake. She has recounted her story many times, an experience which she said made her feel like she didn’t matter.

Years later, Webstad took that painful experience at residential school and channelled it into making a change that has since swept across the country and the world, with the simple but powerful statement that Every Child Matters.

By enshrining Sept. 30 into law and giving everyone a paid day off, it is the hope that more residents will be able to get involved in advancing reconciliation by participating in local commemoration or education events, having important conversations with their families, their friends and their communities, and finding meaningful ways to learn more about shared history, as we do with Remembrance Day.

Premier David Eby said the province is taking the important step to acknowledge the wrongdoings of the past, and to take meaningful action toward reconciliation.

We cannot hide from our past.

Learning the true history of our nation is a step in the right direction for all of us.

- Williams Lake Tribune