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Sixties Scoop survivor urges people to consider where they get their orange shirts

'It's important for people who want to support Indigenous people to ask the questions — who made it, where is the money going and how much of it is going to the organization or cause'

BARRIE — As a survivor of the Sixties Scoop and an Indigenous person in the Barrie community, Denice Muscat-Joseph was shocked when she saw Every Child Matters shirts for sale at the city's north-end Walmart.

“When I saw the orange shirts, I was upset because it seemed so inappropriate for a large corporation to be selling Indigenous items," she told BarrieToday. "I am in contact with Barrie Native Friendship Centre (BNFC) and knew they were selling them and the proceeds were going to their programming. I started to walk away and just leave them, but felt the urge to find out for sure (where proceeds were going)."

Muscat-Joseph says she took an orange shirt to customer service and asked where the proceeds were going. She said the employee told her they were being sold to raise awareness.

“I took a shopping cart and proceeded to bring them all to customer service where two managers were there to tell me that they thought the proceeds were going to the Orange Shirt Society,” Muscat-Joseph added. “I wasn’t aware of the Orange Shirt Society as a local organization and made a point stating I believe local organizations such as BNFC, BANAC (Barrie Area Native Advisory Circle), and BRAWC ( Biminaawzogin Regional Aboriginal Women's Circle) or Mamaway could benefit from the proceeds.”

Muscat-Joseph says she saw the shirts on Sept. 18, but when a BarrieToday reporter went to the Bayfield Street Walmart two days later, there were none to be found. An employee said they were sold out.

Walmart Canada’s director of corporate affairs Adam Grachnik said the company is partnering with the Orange Shirt Society for Orange Shirt Day on Sept. 30 to raise awareness about the history and continuing impact of residential schools in Canada. All proceeds are going to an outside organization, he added. 

“We've worked closely with this organization to create orange T-shirts and sell them across our stores and online," Grachnik told BarrieToday via email. "For every orange T-shirt sold, 100 per cent of profits will go directly to Orange Shirt Society to support them in the important work they do. 

“Our associates will also wear these orange shirts on Sept. 30 to raise awareness about the history and continuing impact of residential schools in Canada on generations of Indigenous peoples, their families and communities," he added. 

Grachnik said many of the shirts sold out quickly, “which is great for the education and fundraising efforts.”

Back in May, Muscat-Joseph had organized the creation of a memorial at the Spirit Catcher along Barrie's lakeshore after the bodies of 215 children were found at a former Kamloops, B.C., residential school. Since then, searches of former residential schools across the country have seen that number grow to what is reported to be currently at just over 1,800.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has reported that as many as 4,100 named and unnamed students died in residential schools across Canada.

Muscat-Joseph says the hurt and trauma that Indigenous people have survived and continue to experience needs to stop, as does any profiting off that pain. 

“I think it's important for people who want to support Indigenous people to ask the questions — who made it, where is the money going and how much of it is going to the organization or cause,” said Muscat-Joseph. “Even Indigenous crafts, such as dream catchers and jewelry, should be purchased from Indigenous crafters. It's such an insult to see them in dollar stores and in other stores.”




Shawn Gibson

About the Author: Shawn Gibson

Shawn Gibson is a staff writer based in Barrie
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