Canada, Ontario remember, honour anniversary of locating unmarked graves at Kamloops Residential School
Tim Brody - Editor
WARNING: This story contains details some readers may find distressing
Canada and Ontario are marking a tragic anniversary, news shared by Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation last year of the tragic discovery of 215 unmarked burials around the former Kamloops Residential School.
Minister of Crown–Indigenous Relations Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services Patty Hajdu, and Minister of Northern Affairs, Daniel Vandal, issued the following statement on May 27:
“One year ago today, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation shared with the world the tragic finding of unmarked burials around the former Kamloops Residential School. The news remains as overwhelming today as when it was first shared.
“Over the past year, we have also witnessed many other communities share their own findings at former residential school sites across Canada: Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, Cowessess First Nation, ʔaq̓am First Nation, Penelakut Tribe, Williams Lake First Nation, Keeseekoose First Nation, Kapawe’no First Nation, George Gordon First Nation, Saddle Lake Cree Nation, and so many more to follow. Each has prompted Canadians to reflect on Canada’s colonialism and abuse; in particular, forcibly removing children from their communities to attend residential schools.
“The locating of unmarked graves at former residential school sites across Canada is a reminder of the abuse that residential school policies inflicted on Indigenous children, their families and their communities. The Government of Canada continues to work with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities who are undertaking the difficult and important work of searching for and commemorating the children who never came home. While it is important for us to address past wrongs and educate ourselves, we also have to address the ongoing impacts of residential schools and the intergenerational trauma that still affects Indigenous Peoples and their communities.
“The Government of Canada acknowledges its role in the past and its impact on the present, and we are committed to making tangible differences across the country. We are listening to First Nations, Inuit and Métis leaders, and we know these approaches must be Indigenous-led, Survivor-centric and culturally sensitive. We will continue to listen to Indigenous Peoples as they tell their stories and support them on their journey of healing—at their own pace, the best way they see fit. As a country, we will do better.
“Our thoughts are with Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and all Indigenous Peoples who have been, and continue to be, impacted by these tragedies, and with the children who attended residential schools and did not return home. We hope you take time for yourself and your loved ones as you mourn those children. Should you need it, the National Residential School Crisis Line remains available to residential school Survivors and their families to provide emotional and crisis referral services by phone at 1-866-925-4419.”
Ontario’s Ministry of Indigenous Affairs released the following statement on May 27:
“One year ago, tragic news broke from Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation that the remains of 215 children were confirmed at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. Today and every day, we remember and honour those children, and the many others still missing.
“The Ministry of Indigenous Affairs invites all Ontarians to take time to reflect on the tragic and painful legacy of Canada’s Residential School system and the vital importance of everyone doing their part to actively support the journey towards healing and advancing the process of reconciliation.
“Over the next few months, Ontario will honour Survivors, their families and communities and remember those children who did not return from Residential Schools on Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, both of which fall on September 30, 2022.”
An estimated 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families and sent to schools run by the Catholic, Protestant, and Presbyterian churches.
Resources to support those in distress due to the Indian Residential School system include the Indian Residential School Survivors Society at 1-800-721-0066, Indian Residential School (IRS) National Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419, and Nishnawbe Aski Nation’s NAN HOPE program at 1-844-626-4673.