12-year-old Haley Paetkau has raised over $ 10,000 for Aboriginal children over the past three years, most recently selling Orange Shirt Day t-shirts that she designed herself.
So when she found out that an American website was selling her exact design online, she was angry and hurt.
“The money isn’t even going where it should go, they are using it for their own personal gain and it is horrendous that they are using my design,” she said.
The orange shirt is more than just a cause for her Haley – it’s personal. The design is based on her late grandmother’s Cowichan sweater and Haley’s own father is a residential school survivor.
“So when your daughter, who is 12, wants to do something for a good cause for her people and you have people who compromise and take advantage of it, it’s pretty disgusting,” said Steve Sxwithul’txw , Haley’s father and a Kuper Island Residential School Survivor.
Victoria Orange Shirt Day organizers Eddy Charlie and Kristin Spray say they have found their shirt design, created by Bear Horne, sold on up to seven websites so far. They say it all started shortly after news of the discovery of the remains of 215 children at the site of the old Kamloops residential school.
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“It really hurt a lot and we were completely shocked, we didn’t know what to say,” said Charlie, a survivor of Kuper Island Residential School.
The couple used the proceeds from their shirt sales to raise awareness of the impacts of residential schools. They say they’ve filed complaints online and consulted with copyright experts, but it’s an uphill battle.
“We wrote to them and asked them to stop using our designs and they moved to another website,” Charlie said.
The latest website featuring the two designs tells CHEK News that all copyright claims are taken seriously, and the design of Charlie and Spray’s orange shirt is currently under review.
The pair urge people to do research before purchasing an orange shirt.
“It’s best to talk to the people you buy the shirts from and ask them where the money is going,” Charlie said.
Sxwithul’txw calls on businesses to do the right thing.
“I hope they have some goodwill and a nice gesture and say okay, haven’t we made enough money on the backs of our people and just take this website down or take these shirts off and show compassion for the First People of Nations of Canada, ”he said.
So far, Haley Paetkau’s fundraiser has bought sports uniforms and books for the island’s native children, and she intends to continue. His shirts are available each fall before Orange Shirt Day.