For more than a century, Indigenous children in Canada were taken from their homes and communities and placed in residential schools.
When Phyllis Webstad attended the St. Joseph Mission residential school, she was wearing a shiny orange shirt that her grandmother had bought for her.
When Webstad 's account of having the shirt taken away was shared at a residential school commemoration in Williams Lake in 2013, the Orange Shirt Day initiative was born. Since then, Orange Shirt Day has become an opportunity to keep the discussion happening about all aspects of residential schools.
The children at Quadra Elementary School in Victoria remembered Webstad's story Monday.
"It's important to recognize and know about the residential schools and all the terrible things that happened there," said Grade 5 student Cooper Lathrop. "We have to acknowledge that it happened. We need to learn that everyone is different and we should all support the different people's cultures."
"I want them to be proud of who they are and to understand who they are," said Indigenous guest speaker Makayla Silvey. "Ask their family about stories of when they were younger because it helps them understand themselves."
Victoria event organizer Eddy Charlie said the initiative is important to honour the survivors.
"Orange Shirt Day is the day when we all come together to pay tribute to the residential school survivors for the ultimate sacrifices they made while they were in residential school," Charlie said. "They sacrificed their language, traditions and their identity but they survived so that one day the next generation can regain that lost part of our history."
Orange Shirt Day is a grassroots event that encourages Canadians to learn about and acknowledge the harm that the residential school system had on generations of Indigenous families and their communities.
"On Sept. 30, we join together to raise awareness of the terrible effects of the residential school system and the resulting intergenerational trauma," said B.C. Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser.
"For more than 100 years, children were taken from their parents, subjected to abuse and made to feel ashamed of their culture."
Hundreds of participants also gathered in Victoria's Centennial Square to mark the occasion.