From The Mayor's Desk:
Doug Lawrance, Mayor, Sioux Lookout
Kamloops and Sioux Lookout
This past week it has been my somber privilege to support initiatives to honour the 215 Indigenous children found in unmarked burial sites at the former Indian Residential School in Kamloops B.C. At both the ceremony held in Frenchman’s Head on the Lac Seul First Nation and at the memorial on Wellington Street in Sioux Lookout, I have been struck by the quiet dignity of residential school survivors and their families as they gather to reflect or speak their stories. I have also been struck by the quiet respect shown by non-Indigenous people in Sioux Lookout.
215 in Kamloops, how many in Sioux Lookout? We too had a residential school at Pelican Falls, not within the Town boundary at the time, but essentially in the area of Sioux Lookout. There are numerous stories, accounts, of children who went missing and were never found. Within the town the Federal Government established a tuberculosis hospital in the mid-1900’s to which Indigenous people were brought during the TB crisis. That hospital became the Sioux Lookout Zone Hospital for Indigenous people. We know there are unidentified graves in the Northway Cemetery adjacent to the old Zone Hospital site. The Municipal Truth and Reconciliation Committee has been working towards memorializing those buried but not identified in the Northway Cemetery.
The news from Kamloops hits hard in Sioux Lookout with our significant Indigenous population, many of whom have been negatively impacted either directly or inter-generationally by the IRS system. This tragic information has caught the attention of the entire nation. Hopefully caught it in such a way that it can be a catalyst for positive change. For commitments and action over the long term, not just short term reaction.
Locally we can take action. We will support Indigenous led action to investigate unmarked and unidentified burial sites within the Municipality. Through the Truth and Reconciliation Committee we will continue with renewed vigour to plan for the memorialization of those unidentified people buried in our cemetery.
I will also be proposing to our Truth and Reconciliation Committee and to Council that we create a permanent and prominent memorial park. I will propose that we establish that park, with Indigenous engagement and guidance, in the downtown area at what is now called Centennial Park. Once established, the renaming of that park to Reconciliation Park may be appropriate. A Park that provides a respectful and accessible area for reflection, gathering, and ceremony to honour the truth for so many and the reconciliation sought by all. A Park that helps to provide dignity for our entire community.
We have been informed and saddened by the Kamloops discovery. This must not be another passing news event. Let’s do what we can as individuals and as a community to take meaningful action, to make things better, to listen to the truth and to forge reconciliation.