‘Immense progress’ made on reconciliation, but Orange Shirt Day calls for more: Winnipeg activist

A Winnipeg Indigenous activist says he feels there’s been ‘immense progress’ made over the past year in terms of acknowledgement of Orange Shirt Day, the reasons why it’s so important, and a genuine focus on reconciliation within the community.

“I’m seeing more and more non-Indigenous people taking leadership and I think that’s exactly what I wanted,” community activist Michael Redhead Champagne told Global News.

“There are documents like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Girls and Women Calls for Justice. These documents are me and my family’s pain, we’ve poured our heart and our soul and our stories and these horrible intergenerational experiences into these documents.

“If non-Indigenous people want to take reconciliation seriously, they will read those calls to action and they will get to work… and that’s what I’ve been seeing in this last year.”

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Read more: Where you can mark Orange Shirt Day in Winnipeg

Orange Shirt Day — also known as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation — was elevated to a statutory holiday by the federal government last year, but was originally created by Phyllis Webstad, a residential school survivor from British Columbia.

Webstad shared her story almost a decade ago at a commemorative event, and said when she was forced to attend residential school, her clothing was taken from her — including a new orange shirt her grandmother had bought her.

That shirt became a symbol of the identities stolen from Indigenous children when they entered the residential school system.

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Champagne said Manitoba can show its commitment to truth and reconciliation today by reducing the number of Indigenous children affected by another government institution.

“If we want to be serious about truth and reconciliation in the city or this province, we only have to read the first call to action. TRC call to action number one tells us that we need to reduce the number of Indigenous children in care.

“That’s the city that I want to live in — that’s the call to action that makes every child matter.

“I hope we can find a way to support the people that want to accomplish the completion of these calls for action and calls to justice but don’t know how, so that we can avoid reconciliation paralysis.”

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Truth and Reconciliation stamps

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