Prince Rupert’s students had an opportunity to learn about a darker part of Canadian history on Sept. 28, and reflect on what it means to value each other regardless of race or background.
École Roosevelt Park Community School and Charles Hays Secondary School both held Orange Day ceremonies where they learned about the effects of the residential school system and its impact on generations of Indigenous families.
“It’s a part of our culture, and we have children here whose grandparents went to residential schools and it’s important for them to understand their history because if you don’t understand it and you don’t have the knowledge then you cannot move forward,” said Andree Michaud, principal at Roosevelt School.
The beginning of the school year is typically when Indigenous children would be taken away from their families to residential schools. More than 100 Roosevelt students and staff — each of whom were wearing orange shirts to symbolize the day — sat down to listen to Charlie Carlick who talked about his experience.
Carlick was taken from his home to a residential school when he was six years old and remained there until he was 15. He only got to see his family for two months out of the year, and said he lost his connection with them as a result.
“You can’t redo the attachment of bonding to other people,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re biologically connected to a person, if you have not bonded to them, you don’t know them and my family became a stranger to me.”
Carlick said that separation still impacts him today, and he wanted the students listening to know both that they are special and that it’s important to accept and value all types of people.
“If humanity is educated to see value, that makes all the difference,” he said. “If we teach the younger ones, eventually they’ll learn and they’ll remember the things they were taught.”
Following the presentation, the group went for a reconciliation walk around Summit Ave. Irene LaPierre, superintendent of SD 52, said she hoped drivers would see the orange shirts, become curious and find out more about the day.
“I was happy to see so many orange shirts on the way over here,” she said. “There were students, staff, mums and even the babies wearing orange shirts so I’m really glad that it’s becoming better known, and I hope more people become aware that there’s a story behind why we’re doing this today.”