WARNING: This story contains distressing details.
Andy Everson is tired of private companies using his art to “capitalize on the atrocities” committed against children in Canada’s residential school system.
The artist from K’ómoks First Nation in B.C. designed one of the more popular logos associated with the “Every Child Matters” movement to honour the thousands of children who died in the federally funded, church-run boarding schools.
Now, he’s seeing it pop up on everything from knock-off Crocs to “sexy” dresses, usually from international online retailers advertising their wares on Facebook.
“It is showing up on literally everything these days,” Everson told As It Happens guest host Duncan McCue.
“A lot of times, they’re overseas companies and they’re just kind of looking at trends, and they see this as a trend here in Canada and in North America, and they want to capitalize on it. So, you know, they’re just trying to make a buck off of this.”
This story was first reported by APTN News.
Listen | K’ómoks First Nation artist on the misuse of his ‘Every Child Matters’ logo:
6:31B.C. artist on his logo being used by for-profit companies
Everson is not alone. The Orange Shirt Society, which promotes Orange Shirt Day on Sept. 30 to honour residential school survivors, says online companies have been stealing its logos and slogans for years.
“It hurts and angers me when I hear that companies are profiting from Orange Shirt Day,” Shannon Henderson, the society’s vice-president, said in a written statement.
The organization is working to trademark the phrase “Every Child Matters” in an effort to combat the trend, treasurer Joan Sorley said. The process could take about a year.
Everson designed his logo in 2015. It features four pairs of hands encircling the words “Every Child Matters” against an orange backdrop.
He says he never copyrighted or watermarked it because he wanted to ensure that activists and Indigenous non-profits could freely use it to raise awareness and funds for residential school survivors.
“I never created this to make money,” he said. “I don’t want it to become about me.”
Unapproved use of the image, he says, has exploded since the preliminary findings of what are believed to be more than 1,000 unmarked graves at or near former residential schools in B.C. and Saskatchewan.
Between the 1870s and the 1990s, Canada’s federal government took more than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children from their families and forced them to attend schools designed to strip them of their languages and cultures. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has found evidence that at least 4,100 children died at the institutions, but said the true total is likely much higher.
Everson is asking anyone who uses his logo to donate 100 per cent of the profits to Indigenous charities and non-profit societies.
“I just think that that’s fair,” he said.
Facebook takes down ad pages
Everson says it’s hard to keep track of the companies using the logo, and trying to shut them down is like playing whack-a-mole.
One company, called Keinee, features a variation of the logo on an orange dress, which is marketed as a “sexy print V-neck.” Another, Prideearthone, sells a wide variety of merchandise with Everson’s, as well as other Every Child Matters, logos.
Keinee did not respond to a request for comment.
Prideearthone said in an email it is donating 10 per cent of the profits from its Every Child Matters collection to an organization called the “Indigenous Children’s Fund.” The company website also states 10 per cent of the profits go to the “Save The Children Fund.” Neither is listed as a registered charity in Canada. As It Happens has asked for more information about these organizations.
“We do this project because we love and empathize with the pain that Indigenous children went through,” a company spokesperson said.
A Facebook spokesperson told As It Happens it has launched an investigation into the ads featuring Everson’s logo, and that it removed several advertiser pages for violating its community standards on “inauthentic behaviour.”
That policy forbids users, organizations or companies from misrepresenting themselves on the platform, potentially by using fake names, fake followers or bots to artificially inflate their popularity or “engage in behaviours designed to enable other violations under our Community Standards.”
Facebook says anyone can report an ad they suspect of violating their rules. Users can also change their ad preferences so they won’t be served similar content in the future.
“We want people to have a positive experience on Facebook, which is why we remove content that isn’t allowed on our platforms and give people tools to control what they see, including the ability to hide ads and advertisers,” a spokesperson said in an email.
But ultimately, Everson says the responsibility falls on the consumer. He encourages any Canadian who wants to show solidarity with Indigenous Peoples to buy their apparel directly from the Orange Shirt Society, the Indian Residential School Survivors Society, or another Indigenous charity or non-profit.
“I think that we can do more than just wearing an orange shirt. I think we can put our money where our mouth is and make sure that money goes to … actually help survivors of residential schools,” he said.
Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools and those who are triggered by the latest reports.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.
Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview with Andy Everson produced by Chloe Shantz-Hilkes.