‘We need to do more,’ MLL admits after buying Truth and Reconciliation shirts from non-Indigenous company


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Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries says it will do more to reach out to Indigenous-owned companies after buying thousands of orange T-shirts elsewhere.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/09/2022 (243 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries says it will do more to reach out to Indigenous-owned companies after buying thousands of orange T-shirts elsewhere.

Manny Atwal, MLL’s president and CEO, said in a statement Tuesday the Crown corporation contacted several Indigenous businesses to make sure they knew about the tender to print thousands of T-shirts for community festivals, as well as 2,000 orange shirts to mark Truth and Reconciliation Day — also known as Orange Shirt Day — on Friday.

“While we were thanked by many for directly reaching out, a few indicated they would not be submitting a bid because they would be unable to fulfil the contract due to other pending orders,” Atwal said.


Michelle Cameron, owner of Dreamcatcher Promotions in Headingley and the Indigenous Nationals Apparel Company outlet at Polo Park Shopping Centre, is dissappointed Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries didn’t get orange shirts printed by her company.

“Ultimately, a local, non-Indigenous company was awarded the contract. While our intentions were not misplaced, we do realize that we need to do more to ensure businesses owned by under-represented groups, including Indigenous companies, have better access to our public tenders.”

Atwal said 1,700 shirts were distributed free to MLL staff so there would be no financial barrier preventing them from wearing orange to support the day.

He noted the design on the front of the shirt was created by local Indigenous artist Jordan Stranger, who is originally from Peguis First Nation; Stranger could not be reached for comment.

Atwal also pointed to investments MLL has already done as part of its commitment to truth and reconciliation, including investing in the Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport Achievement Centre and the SABE Peace Walkers.

“The journey to reconciliation is a long one and there are bound to be instances where we stumble just as there are opportunities to grow along the way,” Atwal said. “We are committed to learning and always doing better.”

But Michelle Cameron, who owns Dreamcatcher Promotions in Headingley and the Indigenous Nationals Apparel Company outlet at Polo Park Shopping Centre, said while MLL claims it reached out to her company, the Crown corporation told her they called the store and couldn’t say who they talked to.

“It’s a little disappointing,” Cameron said. “I have many partnerships with large organizations and they come to me; I didn’t have to bid.

“For me, orange means something to me because my mother was a residential school survivor. All of my staff have family members who were residential school survivors. Coming to an Indigenous-owned company is the right thing to do.”

Cameron said her company is producing thousands of T-shirts for Canadian Tire, the Northwest Company and Marks, and another 2,000 “would have taken us a day.”

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs deputy grand chief Cornell McLean also criticized MLL and other Crown corporations for “using Orange Shirt Day as a gimmick to switch up their uniforms for one week of the year.

“It is a veil of support with no action and we are done with window-dressing reconciliation,” McLean said in a statement. “This day is an opportunity to not only educate Canadians about the history of residential schools, but to create meaningful relationships in the spirit of reconciliation. Reconciliation must include Indigenous peoples.

“So when a Crown corporation decides to purchase Orange Shirt Day T-shirts form a non-Indigenous company, that is not acceptable. We were upset when we learned that the government of Manitoba did not make Sept. 30 a provincial holiday. This just adds to the lack of movement on reconciliation efforts in this province.”

Meanwhile, the majority of other provincial Crown corporations that purchased T-shirts got them from an Indigenous company.

Manitoba Hydro spokesman Bruce Owen said employees could buy T-shirts purchased from Dreamcatcher and the corporation was donating $2 from each sale to the Wa-Say Healing Centre, which works directly with residential school survivors.

As well, Owen said the utility also donated an additional $750 to the healing centre through its Employee Champion Program; Hydro workers organize a fundraising event and volunteer their time.

A Shared Health spokesman said orange “Every Child Matters” shirts have been for sale to staff at both Shared Health and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority for several weeks.

The spokesman said the shirts were ordered through Dreamcatcher with a design created by staff at Indigenous Health and proceeds of the sales will go to support a not-for-profit organization providing services to Indigenous Manitobans.

He said 497 T-shirts have been sold so far, raising nearly $2,500 for this year’s recipient organization.

A MPI spokeswoman said while it didn’t organize a T-shirt purchase drive this year it is holding online reconciliation learning courses for employees designed by the First Nations University of Canada.


Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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