I didn’t learn about residential schools until 2011. Having went to high school in the states, it was never covered in the curriculum (nor are there enough mentions of the atrocities committed against the Indigenous people there, but that’s a story for a different day). It was unsettling to have my picture perfect image of peaceful and kind Canada disrupted in such a way at the age of 27. Even more so by first finding out about them in a class of fellow college students, all younger than me, who were talking about the crimes of the residential schools like common knowledge. Wait, what?!
But in learning about it, I learned how to be different. I learned how to better understand the systematic racism that prevents people of the First Nations of being able to do and simply be. I learned how to check my own ways of thinking, and how the world (and sometimes myself) can be so quick to Other something based off of unfounded fears and assumptions. I also learned how to ask better of the people around me, and to not be afraid to call them on bullshit that does nothing but further divide us. Not just for myself, but for children in this world that deserve so, so much more.
My coworker and I wore these shirts today. On the way out of work we were stopped by a teenager. Our office is rented through the Burnaby Neighbourhood House, and it runs lots of community programs for people of various cultures and circumstances, etc. The teenager asked my coworker what our shirts meant. Having seen them earlier in school that day worn by his fellow peers, he didn’t know what they represented, and wanted to know more.
I too still have a lot to learn. Too many of us do. #orangeshirtday day is just a step of many that need to come next in terms of truth and reconciliation. One that I will soon took with my son. It’s a step I’ll be proud to take.