A Chilliwack U18 co-ed hockey squad learned about the history of the Canadian residential school system while participating in the Orange Jersey Project. (submitted photo)

Chilliwack hockey squad participates in Orange Jersey Project

The project uses the power of sports to educate young athletes about the residential school system

A Chilliwack Minor Hockey Association squad wore special threads recently as they participated in the Orange Jersey Project.

CMHA’s U18 C3 co-ed crew took part in the Orange Jersey Project. According to its website, the Orange Jersey Project “uses the power of sports to educate young athletes about the history of the residential school system, strengthen the path toward truth and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and promote the physical and mental wellness of Indigenous and Non-Indigenous youth through sports.”

With the support of CMHA and the Pacific Coast Amateur Hockey Association (PCAHA), the Chilliwack teens practiced in orange jerseys and also played a game in them. Each jersey had No. 87 on the front, referencing the 87th call to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report released in 2015.

“Provide public education that tells the national story of Aboriginal athletes in history,” it reads.

Chilliwack’s head coach, Jack Surman, ordered the jerseys last summer and his team was one of 750 across Canada registered in the Orange Jersey Project.

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“This is very close to our heart as my grandmother was a residential school survivor, who went there from the age of 6 to 16,” said Jack’s wife, Charmaine Surman, who is an Indigenous education assistant in the Chilliwack School District (SD33).

Jack and Charmaine’s son is on the Chilliwack team, playing his final year of youth hockey.

The night the team was presented with their orange jerseys, Charmaine talked to them about the importance of the project. Getting new jerseys is great, but she wanted them to truly understand why.

“As an overall (group), the kids were 100 per cent in,” she said. “Each of the jerseys also had a QR code on it so they could scan that and be taken right to the Orange Jersey Project website where they could watch videos about different Indigenous athletes and hear Phyllis Webstad (creator and founder of the Orange Shirt Society).”

Chilliwack players could register on the site, view content and answer some questions. They could then enter a contest to win, among other things, $500 towards hockey registration or Vancouver Canucks tickets.

Charmaine hopes the Orange Jersey Project leaves a lasting impression on them.

“There’s no denying residential schools did happen and I hope as the years go by our youth recognize that, and acknowledge it wasn’t OK,” she said. “And because residential schools happened a lot of Indigenous culture was missed, so let’s work on getting that back and standing up and being proud of who we are.”

For more on the Orange Jersey Project, visit https://orangejerseyproject.ca/


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