Last week’s news about the discovery of the remains of 215 children found on the grounds of the former residential school in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc territory, near Kamloops, B.C. is horrific. The horror comes not from this discovery alone – but from the fact that it is another discovery; one which follows a long trail of previously hidden acts of the Residential School System.
First and foremost, on behalf of the Human Resources Professional Association, I want to express our collective sorrow and stress that we stand united in our solidarity with Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, and with all Indigenous communities across Canada.
Last week’s discovery is another tragic reminder of the events that occurred in our country’s recent past, and of how widespread the inhumane actions of the Residential School systems were cast.
While part of our colonial past, these events are not history. On the contrary, for many Indigenous Canadians the impact of residential schools is a living and breathing connection to family and community; an example of a racist part of our country that remains today. We acknowledge that Indigenous people continue to relive the trauma of these events.
It is important to remind ourselves that this is a contemporary issue. As professionals whose job it is to support people, we acknowledge this issue is something we and our teams face, directly or indirectly. We have an opportunity to address it and be part of reconciliation. It is incumbent upon all of us to do so.
I’d like to echo part of a statement issued by the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, and the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services:
“The mistreatment of Indigenous children is a tragic and shameful part of Canada’s history. Residential schools were part of a colonial policy that removed Indigenous children from their communities. Thousands of children were sent to these schools and never returned to their families. The families were often provided with little to no information on the circumstances of their loved one’s death nor the location of their burial. Children in residential schools were forbidden to speak their language and practice their own culture. The loss of children who attended residential schools is unthinkable and Canada remains resolved to supporting families, Survivors and communities and to memorializing those lost innocent souls.”
Should any reader be interested in learning more about the history of Residential Schools and Reconciliation, here are some information sources: (note, some content may be graphic and disturbing to read/view):
- About Residential Schools in Canada
- Statement of Apology
- Gord Downie’s “The Secret Path”
- Legacy of Hope Foundation
- Orange Shirt Day
Knowledge is truly power. It is the only way to ensure we bear witness to these events and ensure systemic racism and hate are stopped at their source.
Louise Taylor Green