The Canadian women’s rugby team may have missed out on securing a repeat medal at the Tokyo Olympics, but they still made plenty of waves on the field with a low-key statement of solidarity with Indigenous peoples.
During their matches this week, all members of the team were spotted incorporating orange into their red and white uniforms, whether through shoelaces, hair ties or wristbands.
The colour choice was noticed by many people online as a nod toward reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous population. Orange has become a symbol of acknowledgement of the abuses Indigenous children faced in the former residential school system, most notably through the Orange Shirt Day holiday.
Social media commended the team for finding a way to make a statement on the field despite the ban on athletes protesting at the Olympics.
At a press conference on Saturday in Tokyo, members of the team used their platform to voice their solidarity with Indigenous peoples back in Canada and around the world.
The entire team wore black T-shirts that read “BIPOC Lives Matter” and orange masks reading “Every Child Matters.”
Player Kayla Moleschi brought up the growing number of human remains detected on the grounds of former residential schools across Canada this year, saying it was every Canadian’s responsibility to reckon with the country’s colonial history.
“We are all a part of colonialism,” she said. “We cannot reconcile with Indigenous communities without acknowledging the truth and realities. Our team acknowledges and stands in solidarity.
“We will continue to amplify the truth and fight to decolonize all spaces.”
Canada was hoping to capture another medal in Tokyo after winning the bronze at the 2016 Games in Rio. But that dream came to an end after the team lost to France on Friday 31-0, eliminating them from the quarterfinal.
They later played Brazil to determine their final standing in the rankings, winning 45-0. They’ll find out if they place ninth of 10th in their final match on Saturday.