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VIDEO: 'Sea of orange' in Orillia on Day for Truth and Reconciliation

'Events like this raise awareness and cause people in the community to become more educated,' says Rama First Nation chief

Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Orillia on Saturday for the third annual event to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

The event was organized by the Mamaway Wiidokdaadwin Primary Care Team, the Orillia Native Women’s Group and the Biminaawzogin Regional Aboriginal Women’s Circle.

Morrigana Townsend, operations manager with the Orillia Native Women’s Group, says it was an important reminder of what happened during the residential schools era.

“We are here today to remind Canada that Indigenous people are still here and we are still being oppressed,” she said. “We are celebrating the resilience of the people who survived, their families, and we are honouring the children who never made it home.”

Townsend says the event has garnered more support from the community each year.

“It’s been really incredible,” she said. “Our sea of orange shirts gets larger and larger each year.”

The event was attended by politicians, representatives from various organizations, and community members, who marched north on West Street after gathering at the Orillia Public Library and the Orillia Opera House.

“It’s not just people who are Indigenous,” Townsend said. “That really shows that the awareness is there where it maybe wasn’t as much two years ago.”

Rama First Nation Chief Ted Williams attended Saturday’s event. He spent some time reflecting on Phyllis Webstad, the inspiration behind Orange Shirt Day.

Webstad had her clothing taken from her on her first day at a residential school, including her orange shirt. She survived, and has written books about her experiences.

“There are too many stories like Phyllis’s from the past,” Williams said. “I’m hopeful that there are no new stories like that today.”

He says the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is about honouring the survivors and those who didn’t make it through residential schools.

“We remember the young Native souls who weren’t able to reach their potential,” he said.

He is thankful for the City of Orillia and community organizations that took part in Saturday’s march.

“Events like this raise awareness and cause people in the community to become more educated,” he said. “I’m hopeful that people will act as a result of events like today.”

Jake King, MC for the event, says it’s important for everyone to recognize the importance of treaties during the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

“Today, we stand on Williams Treaty First Nations land. All (of) Canada was created through the patchwork of different treaties,” he said.

“The Government of Canada and religious denominations tried to take that truth away from us and the rest of Canada. Right now, we are trying to undo those things. This is a meaningful step for everyone.”


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Tyler Evans

About the Author: Tyler Evans

Tyler Evans got his start in the news business when he was just 15-years-old and now serves as a video producer and reporter with OrilliaMatters
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