The union representing BC’s public school teachers is calling on educators to wear orange next week to honour the 215 children found buried at a former residential school.

The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) announced on Saturday that it was organizing an orange shirt walk-in with its 45,000 members for the coming week.

The union also said it would be asking public school districts across the province to lower their flags to half-mast.

Following the establishment of Orange Shirt Day, the garments have become a symbol of awareness and remembrance for the impacts of the residential school system.

“It’s critical that we acknowledge the atrocities perpetrated at these schools across BC and  elsewhere and teach our students the truth,” said Teri Mooring, the president of the BCTF.

“The BCTF is deeply committed to reconciliation and taking actions to move forward by teaching about the atrocities of residential schools with the hope and desire for this to never happen again.”

The Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation announced on Thursday that the remains of 215 students had been found buried on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

Operating from 1890 until 1978, the British Columbian school was the largest institution in the Indian Affairs residential school system.

“To our knowledge, these missing children are undocumented deaths,” said Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir. “Some were as young as three years old.”

The current findings are “preliminary,” and the survey of the grounds is expected to continue until mid-June, Tk’emlups te Secwépemc said.

The Missing Children Project, which documents the deaths and burial places of students who died at residential schools, has identified the remains of more than 4,100 children.

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