On Thursday, the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced that ground-penetrating radar uncovered a mass grave at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.
“Our thoughts are with the children, their families, their communities all who are most affected by this terrible discovery,” Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie said in a statement.
“This is a tragic example of the abuse and neglect that occurred in Canada’s residential school system, and the terrible violence and harm inflicted on Indigenous people. We are reeling with horror, shock and sadness at the way these innocent children were taken from their families and communities and had their lives cut tragically short.”
In existence from 1890 to 1978, and with a wide regional grasp, Kamloops was the largest school in the Indian Affairs residential school system. One report says enrolment peaked in the early 1950s at 500 students.
Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir, Tk’emlups chief, said the community “had knowledge” of the missing children, which she called undocumented deaths.
“Some were as young as three years old,” Casimir said. “We sought out a way to confirm that knowing out of deepest respect and love for those lost children and their families, understanding that Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc is the final resting place of these children.”
The Upper Grand and Wellington Catholic school boards also announced they would lower all flags at their schools and office buildings.
In a statement, Upper Grand said lowering flags is not enough.
“Substantial work must be done in our communities, schools and systems to face the historical and current atrocities faced by Indigenous communities, and to ensure that Indigenous staff and students are not deprived of their rights, and can learn and work in an environment free of racism and discrimination,” the board said.
Mayor Guthrie echoed the board in his own statement.
“As we reflect on the shameful legacy of residential schools in Canada, we must also recognize this as a moment to rededicate ourselves to learning, understanding, and reconciliation,” he said. “As a community, we must commit to positive change, and to eradicating racism and violence against Indigenous people.”
The city said its flags will be lowered until further notice and Upper Grand said its flags will be lowered until June 30.
— With files from Globals’ Doyle Potenteau
The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419) is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience.
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