Truth and reconciliation was brought into the hockey rink in Williams Lake Thursday evening, Sept. 21.
The Orange Jersey Project, which is part of the Orange Shirt Society, hosted the 1st annual Every Child Matters hockey game with team Orange Jersey Project taking on the Chilcotin Grizzlies in a friendly match-up.
The event brought out Canucks alumni Darcy Rota and Kirk McLean and, of course, Orange Shirt Society founder Phyllis Webstad.
“The idea is to bring conversation, just like Orange Shirt Day; to have conversations about all aspects of residential school and this is just another way,” said Webstad, who took part in the ceremonial puck drop before the game.
“We look forward to expanding into other sports as well with the orange jerseys to create conversation and bring awareness.”
It has been 10 years since Webstad, herself a residential school survivor, told her own story at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of her new orange shirt being taken away from her on her first day of school at St. Joseph’s Mission. She has said that experience as a little girl made her feel like she didn’t matter, like her life didn’t matter.
Since she shared her painful experience Orange Shirt Day, and Webstad’s story, has reached countless people around the world.
“I would never have guessed it would be as big as it is,” she said.
When asked how the day feels for her today, she replied “it will always be heavy because we’re talking about genocide. There are people that are alive today that have brothers and sisters and uncles who never came home. We have the inter-generational effects today in 2023 still being felt because of the experiences of families,” Webstad said.
This year is the third National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada and the first for B.C.
“It’s a day to have conversation and lend a listening ear to a survivor or their families for them to tell their stories. Truth comes before reconciliation so if you can listen to the truths of survivors and their families during this time that’s what it’s all about.”
Webstad said when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission started there were an estimated 80,000 residential school survivors. Today there are an estimated 40,000 survivors.
“One day there will be no more survivors left in Canada, so we’ll have Orange Shirt Day National Day for Truth and Reconciliation when we’ve all gone.”
As children headed into the arena for the game Thursday night, running past Webstad, laughing and playing and wearing their orange shirts, she smiled when asked how it felt to see them.
“They’re living the life we didn’t have the opportunity to live, to be with their families and to run carefree and to even attend stuff like this.”
Orange Shirt Day events are scheduled throughout the week in Williams Lake with many events taking place at the Stampede Grounds.