The Nunavut Employees Union (NEU) is asking its membership to don orange shirts on Wednesday to “bear witness to the residential school experience and to symbolize a recognition of the healing journey of survivors and their families.”
In Iqaluit, NEU and Public Service Alliance of Canada members are invited to attend a gathering at Four Corners at 5 p.m. in a show of solidarity with residential school survivors.
“September 30 is the day that Indigenous children were removed from their families and communities to attend residential schools,” said NEU President Bill Fennell. “An Indigenous child, Phyllis Webstad, was given an orange shirt to wear to a residential school in British Columbia by her grandmother. That shirt, along with so much of greater importance was taken away from Phyllis.”
Wearing orange shirts is symbolic of the process of reconciliation, Fennell added.
Premier Joe Savikataaq also spoke of the meaningfulness of Orange Shirt Day.
“Indigenous peoples across this country face too many inequities and fight too hard for their basic constitutional rights. Orange Shirt Day shows us that these injustices are not in the past, and we continue to carry a deep divide,” Savikataaq said in the legislative assembly on Tuesday.
Residential schools, he noted, stripped Indigenous youth of their cultures, languages and families.
“Everyone one in this room, as leaders in our communities, need to provide the support and understanding to help educate and address those effects,” the Premier said. “Residential school survivors are not alone. The Government of Nunavut will continue to ensure their experiences will not be forgotten or diminished.”