Monthly Archives: September 2022

Orange Shirt Day Founder Leaves Legacy With College Visit

New Dr. Phyllis Webstad scholarship to support Indigenous students

President Sean Kennedy and Phyllis Webstad participate in a tree planting at the Indigenous Garden (Daniel J. Patterson Campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake), where a Norway spruce was planted in honour of Webstad’s visit./Niagara College photos.

Like the tree freshly planted on campus in her honour, the impact of Phyllis Webstad’s visit to Niagara College will root and flourish for years to come through her powerful message in pursuit of truth and reconciliation for the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, as well as a new scholarship to support Indigenous students.

The Founder and Ambassador of the Orange Shirt Day movement visited NC’s Daniel J. Patterson in Niagara-on-the-Lake on September 22 to share her story with students, staff and faculty – many were clad in orange as a show of support.  

“As a long-time supporter of Orange Shirt Day, we were thrilled to welcome Phyllis to NC to share her powerful messages with our College community,” said NC President Sean Kennedy. “Phyllis inspires us to open our minds and our hearts – to strive to learn more about the devastating impacts of the residential school system in Canada, to consider new perspectives, and to continue engaging with truth and reconciliation initiatives, while honouring residential school victims and survivors.”

Phyllis Webstad (middle) stands with Jamie Consoli (Indigenous Counsellor, Health, Wellness and Accessibility), Leah Hogan (Associate Director, Indigenous Education), Aria D’alimonte (Indigenous Education) and Deane McGean (Indigenous Education)

A survivor from St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School (Williams Lake, B.C.), Webstad has made it her mission to honour survivors of the Indian residential school system – including intergenerational survivors – and to remember the children who never made it home.

Webstad spoke about the impacts of the residential school system in Canada and the origins and importance of Orange Shirt Day, which coincides with the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation later this month. She read an excerpt from one of her books, Beyond the Orange Shirt Story, and recounted her first day at residential school as a six-year-old girl, when her shiny new orange shirt, bought by her grandmother, was taken from her.

“It didn’t matter how much I protested or told them I wanted it back.  They didn’t’ listen. This was the beginning of that feeling like I didn’t matter,” she said.

The feeling went on to inspire the slogan, ‘every child matters.’

“That’s where ‘every child matters’ comes from …  we could be sick, hungry, lonely, sad, and it didn’t matter, our feelings didn’t matter,” said Webstad, who pointed out that today’s survivors are now adults and elders, “but they were children then.”

Family and friends travelling with Webstad’s group – including her mother Rose Jack and her aunt Theresa Jack – spoke out about how their experiences at residential schools severely impacted their lives. Another member of Webstad’s group, Ron Murphy, spoke of how bullying and sexual abuse he faced at residential school led him to life on the streets as a young teen, and the challenges he faced as a male survivor.

Jamie Consoli, Indigenous Counsellor, Health, Wellness and Accessibility, was instrumental to Webstad’s visit to the College and spoke at the event. Consoli was excited and honoured that Webstad reached out with an interest in visiting NC.

“Not only has her story has inspired so many, but it is a conversation starter to spread awareness on the impacts of the residential school system,” said Consoli. “As Indigenous faculty at NC, the opportunity to meet her and hear her speak is one in a million.”

In addition to her speaking event, Webstad met with Indigenous students during her time at the College and visited the on-campus Indigenous Garden where a Norway spruce was planted in her honour.

Dr. Phyllis Webstad Indigenous Scholarship

President Kennedy announced NC’s new Dr. Phyllis Webstad Indigenous Scholarship to support Indigenous students during Webstad’s speaking event.

The scholarship was initiated by Indigenous Education at NC as a tribute to Webstad’s momentous visit and her important work through the Orange Shirt movement. It is intended to recognize Webstad’s name as well as her story of strength and resilience, which have not only inspired the community to give, but will be meaningful for future scholarship recipients.

“Thanks to the Dr. Phyllis Webstad Indigenous Scholarship, more Indigenous students will receive the support they need to achieve their dreams,” said Kennedy. “We are proud to name this scholarship in Phyllis’ honour, in recognition of her tireless pursuit of truth and reconciliation for the Indigenous peoples of Canada through the Orange Shirt movement.”

The scholarship announcement was met with applause and was well received by Webstad who thanked the College.  

“It was education that got us into this mess and education will get us out of it,”  said Webstad, paraphrasing a quote from Truth and Reconciliation Commission Chair Murray Sinclair, regarding education being the key to reconciliation.

While an initial fundraising goal was set for $20,000 to launch the scholarship, total funds raised exceeded expectations at more than $41,000. Contributors include CIBC, Scotiabank, Niagara Community Foundation, United Way Niagara, OPSEU Local 242, and individual donors from the community.

To start, four students will receive a $1,000 scholarship every year, beginning fall 2023.

Fundraising is still underway, with a goal to grow the Dr. Phyllis Webstad Indigenous Scholarship until it can be offered to every Indigenous student entering NC.

To apply for the new scholarship, through the Financial Aid section of the NC website, students will be asked to submit a written statement outlining how the scholarship would assist them, and recipients will be selected by a team of College representatives from Indigenous Education and Financial Aid.

Those who wish to contribute to the Dr. Phyllis Webstad Indigenous Scholarship at NC are asked to visit

Learn more

Webstad’s visit to NC kicks off several upcoming events where she will be speaking across Niagara, including an Orange Shirt Day Recognition of Survivors event to be held at Niagara Parks Power Station in Niagara Falls on September 30, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day.  Visit Facebook: Beyond the Orange Shirt Story—Niagara Falls 2022 for event details.

For information about Webstad or Orange Shirt Day visit The site also features a list of official orange shirt suppliers which help to support Indigenous communities or organizations.

Phyllis Webstad and Sean Kennedy (NC President) hold a symbolic ‘cheque’ for the Dr. Phyllis Webstad Indigenous Scholarship. Standing (from left): Suzanne Veenstra (Marketing and Communications Coordinator, Niagara Community Foundation), Frances Hallworth (Executive Director, United Way Niagara), Phyllis Webstad, Deane McGean (Indigenous Education, NC),  Aria D’Alimonte (Indigenous Education, NC), Leah Hogan (Associate Director, Indigenous Education, NC), Sean Kennedy, Noelle Urquhart (District Vice President, Scotiabank), Meaghan Bowler (Market Vice President, CIBC) and Rick Anderson (NC VP, Student Affairs).

Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, distilling, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit

Attribution: Niagara College news release

View From The Bridge

Rowers arriving to await their respective start times for the Head of the Welland Five Bridges Fall Classic in this photo taken from Woodlawn Bridge at 9.30 a.m. Hosted by South Niagara Rowing Club, the 5.3 km race on the Welland Recreational Canal takes the athletes through the heart of the city, traveling under five bridges (Main Street, Division Street, Lincoln Street, railway swing bridge and Ontario Road) that span its banks. This is the event’s 40th anniversary year. The steeple seen in the distance is St. Mary’s Church) /Photo by Joe Barkovich.