Langley Board of Education trustee Cecilia Reekie won’t be sitting as a trustee next year, but she has a dream she wants achieved next Sept. 30.
“Sept. 30 is a very significant day across the country. It is Orange Shirt Day: Every Child Matters for survivors of residential schools and to remember those who didn’t make it home,” she said at the last board meeting.
She wore the orange shirt along with other trustees and district staff on that Tuesday evening.
Her father and many aunts and uncles are survivors of residential schools.
The orange colour is significant, she notes.
“A girl sent off to residential school went wearing a new orange shirt her mom had given her,” explained Reekie.
“She arrived at the school and it was immediately taken away from her, never to be seen again.
“That shirt represents everything those kids lost. They lost their family, their language, culture and pride.”
Reekie spoke of her own father’s horrifying experiences at residential school.
“My dad was caught speaking in his own language.
They took my dad’s pants down and whipped him and the other boy in front of everyone,” she said.
On Orange Day in Langley, the Aboriginal Program directors brought drummers out to James Kennedy Elementary and spoke to the students.
“I looked out at the kids and more than half the kids had orange shirts on,” Reekie said with tears in her eyes.
“My vision is to have every school wearing orange on Sept. 30 next year.”
At the board meeting, Reekie thanked the Aboriginal program staff and district staff for supporting Orange Shirt Day.
An estimated 150,000 Aboriginal children were taken from their families and forced to live at residential schools across the country. More than 3,000 never made it home.
The schools were funded by the Canadian government, but run by numerous religious groups. Sexual and physical abuse, torture and mistreatment was widespread.
By students and staff wearing orange shirts next Sept. 30, it means a recognition of the wrongs of everything residential schools were about.