P.E.I. paramedics wear orange epaulettes in support of residential school survivors

·2 min read
Island EMS operations manager Jeremy Measham, left, and paramedic Alison Larkin wear the new orange epaulettes.   (Alex MacIsaac/CBC - image credit)
Island EMS operations manager Jeremy Measham, left, and paramedic Alison Larkin wear the new orange epaulettes. (Alex MacIsaac/CBC - image credit)

Paramedics with Island EMS are wearing orange epaulettes in September in support of residential school survivors and the Every Child Matters movement.

More than 130 paramedics and managers across P.E.I. are wearing the orange shoulder patches on their shirts.

"We really wanted to honour our First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities and the survivors. We thought that was a very important initiative," said Jeremy Measham, operations manager with Island EMS in Charlottetown.

Alex MacIsaac/CBC
Alex MacIsaac/CBC

"We thought it was a very important thing for us to be part of the public commemoration of the history and legacy of the residential school systems.

"For the month of September, going forward, we will wear our orange epaulettes in order to publicly support this."

Process of reconciliation

Measham said reports earlier this year of unmarked graves found on the grounds of former residential schools in B.C. and Saskatchewan inspired the idea of the orange epaulettes.

Michael MacKenzie/Island EMS
Michael MacKenzie/Island EMS

"I think this year, unfortunately, there's been a lot of news of recent discoveries of deaths that occurred in the residential schools," Measham said.

"Athough the movement started in 2013, we believe that now was the time for us to come out and show our solidarity with the orange shirt movement and Phyllis Webstad."

Measham said wearing the epaulettes is a way for the public to see the paramedics showing their support.

"That's kind of the point," Measham said.

"I think that acknowledgement is part of the process of reconciliation."

Epaulettes of solidarity

Measham said there are other EMS companies that also wear epaulettes and change them throughout the year.

Michael MacKenzie/Island EMS
Michael MacKenzie/Island EMS

"There is a movement to demonstrate solidarity with various movements," Measham said.

"For example, we wear Pride epaulettes during Pride month, and we honour breast cancer survivors and prostate cancer survivors, and we also choose to honour the members of our military with specific epaulettes."

Measham said the reaction to the different epaulettes has been "overwhelmingly positive.

Michael MacKenzie/Island EMS
Michael MacKenzie/Island EMS

"The communities involved very much appreciate the fact that we're publicly demonstrating our support for them," Measham said.

"I think it gives the paramedics a sense of pride because paramedics above all else really are serving their communities."

Measham said the Every Child Matters flag is also flying at half-mast at the Charlottetown base.

He said the orange epaulettes could be described as the paramedic's version of wearing an orange shirt.

Alex MacIsaac/CBC
Alex MacIsaac/CBC

"Orange matches with orange, we're flying an Every Child Matters flag at half-mast on our flags outside," Measham said.

"This is an important time for Canadians to remember that reconciliation is a vital and ongoing process, and we're proud to be a part of it."

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