Sask. clothing shops selling orange shirts ahead of Canada Day

Several Saskatchewan clothing shops are making and selling orange shirts ahead of Canada Day to acknowledge and honour the victims of the residential school system.

It’s part of a growing movement, encouraging Canadians to wear orange on Canada Day, instead of red and white.

Nerissa Musqua, owner of Four Fawns Clothing, started making orange shirts when she heard about the 215 unmarked graves found at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. 

“It really hit close to home for me, as my husband’s Indigenous, as well as my kids. So, I knew I really wanted to do something,” said Musqua.

Once she started making the shirts about a month ago, Musqua said the response from the community was huge.

“I’m really pumped that people are actually stepping up and really caring about this issue now,” she said.

The proceeds from the shirts will go towards purchasing books on Indigenous culture and history, to fill outdoor libraries, and eventually schools.

“When the news hit, what we noticed right away was, the non-Indigenous people were really shocked and the Indigenous community wasn’t really,” said Musqua. “So, we knew that we really needed to teach what happened, and get literature out there that was free and available.”

Musqua estimates her business will be able to purchase thousands of books, but said since orders are still coming in, she doesn’t have an exact number yet.

Christine Marie owns Indigenous-inspired fashion line Awasis Boutique. She was already going to create orange shirts in August, but when she heard about the discovery in Kamloops, she moved the launch up.

“I did not expect the support to be as strong as it has,” said Marie. “With that first round of preorders at the beginning of June, 600 shirts sold out within 45 minutes.”

Awasis Boutique moved up the launch of their orange shirt after the discovery of unmarked graves in Kamloops. (Courtesy: Christine Marie)

The boutique has already donated more than $9,000 in proceeds to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society.

“People get to wear the orange and show their support. But then we’re also going to be investing back into the communities of survivors,” said Marie.

Both shops plan to continue to sell the shirts even after Canada Day.

“I get several questions like, ‘What can I do? How can I continue to help? I wanna be an ally,’” said Marie. “And it’s just that. It’s these little steps of learning, of connection, of listening to the stories, of showing support.”