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School District 71 hosts renowned residential school survivor

COMOX VALLEY, B.C. – Phyllis Webstad is telling her story to the Comox Valley this week.

Webstad is a residential school survivor.

She’s on tour as part of the Orange Shirt Day movement.

Orange Shirt Day happens on September 30th every year across Canada.

It helps spread the message that “every child matters”, and Webstad is sharing her story of having her orange shirt taken away from her during her first day at a residential school.

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“We’re very fortunate to have Phyllis here coming down from the Kamloops area, and she’s actually visiting six different school locations and doing presentations for all age groups,” said Jeannine Lindsay, and Indigenous support worker at Courtenay’s Lake Trail Middle School.

“The reason that September 30th is when we recognize it (Orange Shirt Day) is because that’s the month that students were usually taken away from their parents and taken to residential schools.”

Lindsay said over the years, Orange Shirt Day has grown to become a movement recognizing residential school survivors.

“I think the impact that the younger students are going to take away from this is that this is somebody that has a story to share, and she does it in a positive (and) loving way, and she really gets to their level to talk about what it was like as a six year old,” Lindsay said.

“For our students, to hear about residential schools and to read about it, that’s one thing, but to actually meet somebody that can share their history and their knowledge with them one on one is a different story.”

Webstad also has a book detailing her story called The Orange Shirt Story, and she is sharing passages from that book with students.

“It’s important for people to know that a simple thing like wearing an orange shirt or acknowledging Orange Shirt Day really gives a lot of hope to residential school survivors and allows people to share their stories without feeling shame anymore,” Lindsay added.

“That’s something we’re trying to teach our students, that every child matters and you need to be able to share your story, so it’s really important to look at that and acknowledge Orange Shirt Day for that reason.”

Lindsay said that Phyllis Webstad is going to be in the Comox Valley until this Friday.

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