A nation in mourning

The discovery of 215 children buried at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops B.C. has caused an emotional reaction and a call for action across the country.

The following are some reactions from local leaders.

“The 215 children whose bodies were found never had the opportunity to grow up to have their own families, to have kids themselves, and to enjoy the opportunity to make their lives happy and fulfilling. I also feel very much for the parents and family members. There is absolutely nothing worse than losing a child. These 215 children all had mothers, fathers, often brothers and sisters, grandparents. All of whom were likely destroyed by the loss of their children.

Having worked as a doctor in many countries with many races, I can tell you that our similarities far, far outweigh our differences. I can tell you with absolute confidence that a mother’s grief when told that their child has died is the same no matter whether that mother is African, Melanesian, Indigenous, European or Asian, or whether Muslim, Jewish, Christian or atheist. However despite the fact we are first and foremost all people and equal, our Indigenous population has sadly, in the past, been considered somehow less than human. As a result, their children were often mistreated, neglected and sometimes even murdered. No one asked for permission to take their children away, no one bothered to tell parents when their children died, and why they died. Bodies were not returned to their families.

Our common humanity is readily apparent to anyone with eyes and who wants to use them. This is the case now and it was the case 100 and 200 years ago as well. The reality is that many, many people, including people in government, knew that the way they treated these kids, and their families, was profoundly wrong, and yet chose to keep their eyes closed, and so the practice of sending children to residential schools continued for almost 100 years.

We can not undo the past. However we have a moral obligation, unless the Indigenous communities are opposed to it, to find all such burial sites, and if the deaths occurred more recently, to conduct criminal investigations into the causes of death, identify the bodies, and return them to their homes for proper burial. Of course, we need to do much more, such as recognizing that this misguided policy has significantly contributed to many of the social problems that continue to plague many Indigenous communities. Although it is true that many non-Indigenous people also suffered difficulties and losses that may continue to affect their lives, we have to remember that in the Indigenous population, the harm caused by residential schools affected pretty well the whole population and in some cases, several generations. Change occurs slowly and there is no easy way to repair the damage that has been done.

Although Indigenous populations throughout Canada are bouncing back, we as a government need to realize that a large part of the difficulties facing the community were, in large part, the result of our misguided policies, and that as a result we will need to do more in order to help ensure the current and future generation of the Indigenous community can repair their communities.”

– MP Marcus Powlowski, Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay – Rainy River

It is with profound sadness that the Ontario Catholic Supervisory Officers’ Association (OCSOA), an association comprised of Directors of Education and Superintendents of Education, responds to the news regarding the death of the 215 students from the Kamloops Residential School. Sadly, the discovery adds to the trauma faced by the families of those students and to Indigenous communities across Canada.

The residential school system represents a shameful chapter in Canada’s history, one that needs to be explored, understood and followed by reconciliation on many levels. As senior Catholic educators we recommit ourselves to ensuring that our schools are places of safety, hospitality and welcome for all students. As well we commit to telling the events of the residential schools and learning from this tragic experience in our school systems.

In the Gospel of Mark (9:36-37), we are reminded of the giftedness of each child: “He took a child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me.’” While we cannot undo the tragic events of the past, we can ensure that such occurrences never happen again and that any mistreatment of Indigenous and other communities is never again tolerated or condoned. In this most recent tragedy, our faith institutions did not follow Jesus’ words and failed to live up to the dictates and demands of our faith. We acknowledge as Catholic leaders that we cannot allow the antecedent of the Residential Schools to find their roots in our schools today; we must ensure that their lives of these child victims were not in vain. We also acknowledge that the Government of Canada failed to fulfil one of its most fundamental responsibilities to protect all Canadians, including and most importantly, the most vulnerable in our society who depend on the government for shelter, compassion and care.

OCSOA calls upon the Government of Canada to establish a national day of Mourning for all children who were mistreated or died in Residential Schools in our country.

We commit as senior Catholic leaders that our system will continue to find concrete ways to remember and honour those children who died in residential schools in Kamloops and across Canada.

– The OCSOA Board of Directors

The Anishinabek Nation Chiefs-in-Assembly extend their deepest sympathies for the people of Tk’emlúps te Secwepemec First Nation during this time of deep sorrow and grief.

The Anishinabek Nation Chiefs issued this statement during the annual Grand Council Assembly that was hosted by Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation from June 1-3 via Zoom.

On May 27, 2021, the discovery of the buried remains of 215 children at a former Indian Residential School within the territory of the Tk’emlúps te Secwepemec First Nation in Kamloops, British Columbia, was reported.

The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission details the harsh mistreatment inflicted upon Indigenous children that attended residential schools where at least 3,200 children died amid abuse and neglect.

The Anishinabek Nation is calling on the Government of Canada to:

  • Declare a national day of mourning as August 3 (the 215th day of the calendar year) of each year to mark the terrible loss of innocent young lives that occurred at all Indian Residential Schools;
  • Acknowledge the events that occurred at the Kamloops Indian Residential School as being part of a genocide conceived and carried out by the Government of Canada and Church Organizations;
  • Provide the opportunity and resources for other First Nations and Indigenous people across Canada whose lives were forever impacted by the atrocity of the Indian Residential Schools to carry out surveys of former residential school sites as were completed at Kamloops, if and when they choose to do so;
  • Abandon opposition to the Indian Residential Schools Survivors at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and claims for the full implementation of Jordan’s Principle;
  • To ensure that legal accountability for these atrocities is pursued; and
  • Finally provide meaningful and sustained support and resources from the legacy of the Indian Residential Schools, and to truly advance the long process of reconciliation.

The Anishinabek Nation Flag went half-mast at 11am on May 31 and will be lowered for 215 hours until June 9 at 10am. The Anishinabek Flag is flown in front of the Indian Residential School monument located at the Anishinabek Nation head office on Nipissing First Nation.

– Anishinabek Nation

New Gold is saddened by the recent tragic discovery of the remains of 215 children on the grounds of the former residential school in Kamloops.

Renaud Adams, President and CEO stated: “The news of this discovery has affected me deeply. First and foremost, our condolences and prayers go out to all those who have been impacted by this news. We know that the roots of intergenerational trauma are deep, and a discovery of this nature is particularly disturbing, upsetting, or triggering to many. We extend our condolences to Kúkpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and all the communities from the Secwépemc Nation as they navigate this tragedy.”

New Gold is committed to contributing to a stronger, healthier, and prosperous future for Indigenous peoples across Canada, something that can only be achieved by first acknowledging the pain that Indigenous peoples have historically endured and continue to endure to this day.

– New Gold