OPINION: The Problem with Orange Shirt Day, and Why No One Takes It Seriously (and how to fix it)

By: Kyle Williams

TORONTO – It was recently Orange Shirt day, and it came to my attention how little orange shirts were worn during such an important day. Even I myself was not aware to wear an orange shirt despite the multiple announcements at school in the past days. Also, my attention span, that of a high school teenager, could not remember announcements for more than thirty minutes. Despite seeing some people wear orange shirts or some remnants of them, I could say with confidence that 99% of the school did not wear orange that day.

I think this stresses the importance of the problems with remembrance days, and why they are not taken seriously.

As Canada marked its first Truth and Reconciliation day, on September 30th, many approached this day with mixed emotions following the tragic news of hundreds of unmarked graves found underneath residential schools. These schools were part of a system which was established to enforce a number of colonial laws that aimed to eliminate Indigenous culture in favour of integration into Euro-Canadian society.

An estimated 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Metis children attended residential schools between the 1860s and 1996.

This day is being recognized as a federal holiday to give Canadians a chance to reflect on the legacies of the residential school system but, surprisingly, only in a few provinces. Starting in 2015 reports have been released of the mistreatment that many encountered within the schools.

Okay, I get it, talking about this is important, but to figure out what causes a problem in today’s society, the first thing you realize is the way these messages are spreading. The biggest issue is that we need to change the way we talk about problems like these. Of course, it’s important to learn about the atrocities committed at the schools, but no one wants to hear gloomy messages all the time, so we just distance ourselves from it without even realizing. Sometimes our brains automatically tune out bad things, making matters such as these hard to talk about.

It is not the day itself that serves importance but the people themselves to bring importance to that day.

So how do we make communicating issues like this easier to cope with? Exactly how corporate companies push advertising down your throats… marketing. The acknowledgement that we are on the land of the Metis, First Nations and Inuit people every morning is a good step in providing reconciliation, but that’s not enough. The best possible way is through art and a great example of this is what the Black Student Alliance (BSA) did to the wall in the stairwell, a beautiful mural of black culture and intuity.

The school halls are filled with vacant spaces to paint on, so why not make good use of it?

Current studies on how art changes us shows that people who are exposed to art are more tolerant and empathetic; there is a change in their values. Art broadens our perspectives and shows awareness of different people, places and ideas as well as helps us appreciate the differences we find in a diverse world.

Rather than acknowledging that we are on Indigenous land on the announcements, why not put their flag on our flag pole in front of the school? This will show our permanent and continuing support. These little changes will help us move towards a better society as we deal with some pretty complicated issues such as the recently found Indigenous graves. As we all showed solidarity about holding those accountable, it turns out we are just getting started. There is no quick fix, but small steps like these can make a broader scale of change rather than another guilt trip every year. Remember we are the future, not the past, and it is up to us to show that we are different and we demand change.

DISCLAIMER: This article is a student’s opinion. It is not necessarily an opinion that is representative of the Golden Falcon editorial team or Forest Hill Collegiate as a whole.

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