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City of Calgary honours Orange Shirt Day with moment of silence at city hall

Orange Shirt Day is held to remember those who died at residential schools in the country and to honour those who survived. Dave Parsons / Global News

City of Calgary staff gathered at the steps of the downtown municipal building at noon on Wednesday to partake in a moment of silence in honour of Orange Shirt Day.

Orange Shirt Day is held annually on Sept. 30 as a way to acknowledge the experiences of First Nations, Metis and Inuit children in residential schools.

Read more: Liberals introduce legislation to make Sept. 30 Indigenous reconciliation holiday

It is named in memory of a piece of clothing one First Nations girl in British Columbia had taken away from her on her first day at a residential school in 1973.

The moment of silence served as a chance for City of Calgary staffers and members of the Indigenous Relations Office to remember the more than 150,000 Indigenous children forced into residential schools, and the thousands of children who died.

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WATCH: James Kuptana from Bow Valley College joins Global News Morning Calgary to discuss the importance of Orange Shirt Day 

Click to play video: '2019 Orange Shirt Day commemorates the residential school experience' 2019 Orange Shirt Day commemorates the residential school experience
2019 Orange Shirt Day commemorates the residential school experience – Sep 30, 2019

“Reconciliation can only happen when the truth is shared, listened to and learned from,” Harold Horsefall from the Indigenous Relations Office said in a news release.

Speaking outside city hall, Horsefall said speaking about Indigenous history is “tough,” but “incredibly important.”

“It’s one of the most tragic histories — tragic chapters in Canadian history and as such there’s a lot of trauma that goes with it,” he said.

“It’s a tragedy and we want to remember it so that history doesn’t repeat itself.”

Many employees with the Calgary Fire Department were donning orange on Wednesday, according to chief Steve Dongworth.

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“Today is really about us showing our solidarity, our support, our thoughts with the First Nations community, the Metis community, on this day when we remember those who were forced to go to residential school, the survivors of that experience and of course those also who didn’t come back, those children who died in residential school and we take that very seriously,” he said.

“We need to move forward, but we need to move forward together with that community.”

The City of Calgary also released a video to mark the occasion via its YouTube channel.

– With files from The Canadian Press

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