Staff from across our organization wore orange on September 30, 2019 to honour Orange Shirt Day and to show support for residential school survivors and their commitment to reconciliation.
One of Legal Aid Alberta’s core organizational values is that we are protectors. We serve Albertans, often the most vulnerable of us, and work tirelessly to protect their rights and ensure a fair process. Helping to ensure that Indigenous people get culturally sensitive legal representation and support is paramount to our organization.
Orange Shirt Day is an annual day of commemoration intended to raise awareness of the harm that the residential school system caused to Indigenous children and families; the effects of which continue to devastate Indigenous communities to this day. Orange Shirt Day takes place September 30th as that was the time of year when children were taken and sent to residential schools.
Orange Shirt Day is an example of how our staff are living our organizational values. “At Legal Aid Alberta, we are supporting Orange Shirt Day and are actively adopting the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action,” says Andrea Menard, Manager of the Metis Youth Advocacy Program. “This makes me very proud to be an Indigenous person working here and supporting Indigenous youth clients. I interact with many Indigenous communities both on-reserve and in the urban areas and I believe showing solidarity by wearing our orange shirts would be seen by most communities as a positive step in the right direction towards reconciliation.”
The orange shirt is an important symbol on this day as it represents the story of residential school survivor Phyllis Jack Webstad. Webstad wore an orange shirt that her grandmother gave her for the first day of residential school in British Columbia, only to have it taken away and never returned. Webstad’s shirt was replaced with a uniform, making her feel worthless and insignificant.
Webstad’s story reflects the experience of residential school survivors who were forced to assimilate, reject their culture and endure mental and physical abuse. In the spirit of reconciliation, we wear orange on this day to stand in solidarity with survivors and promise future generations that every child matters.
In the left photo, from left to right: Andrea Menard, Manager of the Metis Youth Advocacy Program and John Panusa, President and CEO.
In the right photo, from left to right: Cordell Prediger, Business Intelligence Analyst; Suzy Sawires, Team Lead; Samantha Busby, Business Analyst; Rupal Shah, Payroll & Benefits Administrator; Rosalie Lasay, Finance Clerk; Sylvia Sieskiewicz, Senior Financial Analyst; and Byron Gilles, Manager.