Students and teachers across B.C. are taking part in the seventh annual Orange Shirt Day event, which draws attention to and supports families affected by Canada’s residential school system.

The yearly event began in 2013 and was inspired by Phyllis Webstad, an Indigenous woman who had a new orange shirt – that was recently gifted to her by her grandmother – ripped away from her at the St. Joseph Mission Residential School in 1973.

The story has become a symbol for the harms done by Canadian residential school and Sept. 30 has since been declared Orange Shirt Day to help raise awareness about the legacy of Canadian residential schools.

“Public education holds a special responsibility to enable truth and reconciliation,” said Greater Victoria School District board chair Jordan Watters in a release Monday.

“In order to live up to this responsibility, we must continue to create culturally responsive learning environments, engage in truth-telling, have gratitude for knowledge sharing, and celebrate the success and resilience of Indigenous people,” she said.

This year, students in Grades 5 to 12 can participate in a virtual National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation event which highlights the experiences of residential school survivors and their families. Registration for the online event can be found here.

Police departments from across Vancouver Island are also supporting Orange Shirt Day Wednesday.

“Today we recognize and honour the survivors of residential schools,” said Officer in Charge of the West shore RCMP, Insp. Todd Preston.

“This year looks a bit different as we may not be able to participate in events like in years past, but we are taking time to have this important conversation to acknowledge the survivors and the effects of the residential school system,” he said in a release Wednesday. 

Today, we reflect on the legacy of Indian residential schools & their continuing harms of Indigenous families today. This is part of our history; a residential school opened in Victoria in 1863. Take a moment & listen to Phyllis (Jack) Webstad's story - https://t.co/2C5OjWwnG9

— Victoria Police (@vicpdcanada) September 30, 2020