Tim Hortons and its 1,500 restaurant owners across Canada are preparing to launch a limited-time fundraising donut with 100 per cent of proceeds being donated to Indigenous organizations that support residential school survivors. The Orange Sprinkle Donut will go on sale at participating restaurants starting Sept. 30, which is Orange Shirt Day. Through Oct. 6, 100 per cent of the donut’s retail price (excluding taxes) will be donated to the Orange Shirt Society and the Indian Residential School Survivors Society.
This campaign was developed with a group of Indigenous Tim Hortons who selected two important organizations to support. We connected with Phyllis Webstad, the Ambassador and Founder of the Orange Shirt Society, to talk about how the Orange Sprinkle Donut will support the organization.
For Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, the colourful clothes Canadians wear each year on Orange Shirt Day are a powerful symbol of support, but are connected to a painful and personal memory.
Phyllis attended a residential school near Williams Lake, B.C., for one school year in 1973. To mark her first day of school, her grandmother bought her a shiny new orange shirt with laces. Just six years old at the time, Phyllis could not have been more excited for her first day. But when she got to school, her orange shirt was taken away from her. At the residential school, she was made to feel powerless and worthless and that she did not matter. It wasn’t until more than 20 years after that traumatic first day of school that Phyllis began her healing journey.
Now, Phyllis is the Ambassador and Founder of the Orange Shirt Society and tours the country telling her story. The orange shirt has become a powerful symbol of the need for Canadians to acknowledge the tragic legacy of the residential school system and its enduring effects on Indigenous families and communities.
It’s been eight years since the first Orange Shirt Day, which is held every Sept. 30th. How do you feel about the way the event has grown?
I’m as surprised as anyone else.
I’ve always said from the very beginning that it’s been divinely guided. It has a life of its own right now and there’s something behind it – the ancestors, I believe, are guiding what’s going on. Because if I had written a business plan and tried to make Orange Shirt Day what it is today, I would have fallen short.
It’s been quite the journey. I can’t say enough. I’m humbled.
Orange Shirt Day has a life of its own, and for whatever reason, my story was chosen.
Where did the slogan “Every Child Matters” come from?
We chose “Every Child Matters” because when I first told my story, I talked about how I felt I did not matter. Nobody cared whether I was hungry, lonely, sad, tired, or sick.
Every child, 150,000 of these survivors, they were children when this happened. They mattered. And the ones who never made it home who we’re hearing about now – they mattered.
We chose September because that’s the time of year that children would have been taken away.
Survivors and their families continue to die by suicide and by drugs and alcohol because of their residential school experience or their family’s residential school experience.
So Orange Shirt Day is a day to honour residential school survivors and their families and to remember those who didn’t make it.
You’ve published two books about your experience and tour the country discussing what happened. Is it painful to bring up those memories?
Some days are better than others. But I get a lot of support.
And I’m learning that I need the basics: I need to sleep, exercise, keep up with ceremonial smudging.
I’m learning how to take better care of myself.
On your tours, have you had the opportunity to meet many other survivors?
Yes, and I love hearing their stories.
An elder survivor told me about how she was only two years old when she was taken – and she told me that just minutes before I was to go up before a gymnasium of students to speak – I had to just to stop and acknowledge that before I could begin.
A lot of people think this history was 100 years ago, that all survivors are dead and gone. Some of the survivors I meet are so young.
How does it feel to see how many people across the country are being affected in one way or another by Orange Shirt Day?
The first time I realized it – I’m a crier, so I sat and had a good cry.
It happened in Victoria. I was speaking at this elementary school. I walked through the whole school, and every classroom was wearing orange. By the time I got to the gym, I was in tears.
I thought, “If this is happening here, this could be what it looks like across Canada.” I just couldn’t believe it. It still feels so surreal.
The Orange Sprinkle Donut will go on sale at participating restaurants starting Sept. 30, which is Orange Shirt Day. Through Oct. 6, 100 per cent of the donut’s retail price (excluding taxes) will be donated to the Orange Shirt Society and the Indian Residential School Survivors Society.
For more information about the Orange Shirt Society and Orange Shirt Day visit https://www.orangeshirtday.org.
For more information about the Indian Residential School Survivors Society visit https://www.irsss.ca.