Sonia, a survivor of a residential school in Port Alberni, recalled that when Orange Shirt Day was first organized in 2013, it made her sad.
But seven years later, as she helped the Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre launch a canoe on Lake Kathlyn in honour of survivors of the Indian Residential School System and those who did not survive, she said it has become part of her healing.
“For young children to realize and respect what Orange Shirt Day is all about is very honouring to all of us,” she said, adding it would be nice to see more survivors come out for events, but knows how hard it can be.
“A lot of residential survivors don’t come out and speak because it triggers a lot of people and it brings them back to the bad times or whatever they went through and we all have to understand what each person is going through,” she said.
Just prior to launching the canoe, Mel Bazil, a Friendship Centre alcohol and drug counselor said a few words about the significance of the event.
“They wanted the Native to die, but they wanted the worker to live,” he said. “Now, we are taking back our culture.”
The canoe launch is one of a number of Orange Shirt Day events going on around Smithers today.