People wearing orange T-shirts filled Surrey City Hall on Thursday (Sept. 26) to honour Indigenous residential school survivors and their families.
Orange Shirt Day is held annually on Sept. 30 to remember the story of Phyllis Jack Webstad, a residential school survivor who, as a girl, had her new orange shirt taken from her on the first day of school and never returned.
Thursday’s event at city hall was organized by the City of Surrey and Surrey Urban Indigenous Leadership Committee (SUILC). Drummers from SFU Surrey and staff from the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development also attended.
Surrey is home to more than 13,000 Indigenous people – the largest urban Indigenous population in B.C., according to city statistics.
“The City of Surrey partners with the SUILC to create a city in which Indigenous contributions are valued, where reconciliation is a priority, and where every Indigenous person has the opportunity to achieve their full potential,” says a city hall release.
In 2016, Surrey city council endorsed SUILC’s All Our Relations: Surrey Urban Aboriginal Social Innovation Strategy. Details are posted to surrey.ca/indigenous.
“Orange Shirt Day is a time to acknowledge and remember the injustices of the past, and it is also a day to come together in a spirit of reconciliation,” Mayor Doug McCallum said in the city’s release. “We are dedicated to working with Aboriginal governments, local governments, schools and communities to continue our work in strengthening the Aboriginal community.”