The BC Lions will recognize and honour survivors of Canada’s residential school system at a game later this month — “a dream come true,” according to the founder of the Orange Shirt movement.
Provincial government officials and First Nations leaders gathered at BC Place on Thursday to announce plans for the event, which will see the Lions and the visiting Saskatchewan Roughriders wearing orange tape for their CFL game on Sept. 24.
Lions vice-president George Chayka said the club will welcome 350 residential school survivors at the game.
The club also announced it would donate $20,000 to the Orange Shirt Society.
Phyllis Webstad, a residential school survivor who founded the Orange Shirt Society, said she is thrilled to have the Lions jump on board.
“This partnership here is a dream come true for me,” she said.
“It’s a dream come true for me to have survivors and their families honoured at the Sept. 24 game.”
Melanie Mark, Minister of Tourism and Sport, helmed the announcement and thanked the team and its sponsors for getting involved.
“This partnership is an example of paddling together on the path to reconciliation,” she said.
Chayka said the partnership is a perfect fit. He said he knew he had to do something when he heard the news in late May of the unmarked graves found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
“One of the pillars of our brand is to help build better communities,” he said.
The team also unveiled a First Nations version of its logo, designed by an Indigenous B.C. artist. The logo will be on 10,000 T-shirts handed out at the Sept. 24 game.
Premier John Horgan, also on hand at the announcement, described the partnership between the Lions and the Orange Shirt Society as “a step in the right direction.”
Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir spoke, as well, talking about the partnerships forged across Canada in the wake of her announcement on May 27 of the discovery of the unmarked graves.
“I stand here today strong because of the immense support that both I and our community has received since May 27,” she said.
“It brought all of us, as a community and a nation, together in a good way.”
Webstad said it will be nice to gather on Sept. 24 with hundreds of other survivors at BC Place to cheer on the Lions.
“It’s good to do that,” she said.
“We can’t always be crying.”