Kamloops Residential School: Reflecting on and Responding to the News From Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc

On Thursday, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc (Kamloops Indian Band) released a statement confirming the tragic news of the remains of 215 school children found on the former grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School. This discovery is just one of the many devastating effects of colonialism, and casts light on the ongoing challenges that Indigenous Peoples face due to decades of genocide and centuries of violence.

Our thoughts are with the children, their families and communities, residential school survivors, and to everyone for whom this news causes additional pain, trauma, and suffering. For all who are grieving, we keep you, the children, and all of those who never returned home from residential school in our hearts today, and every day.

We know that this deeply tragic and disturbing news may trigger the ongoing trauma of colonization for many members of our community. Given the undoubtable impacts of these recent findings, the Indian Residential School Survivors Society has opened its support lines 24/7 for those that may need counselling support, and other supports are available including:

  • National Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line 1.800.721.0066 
  • Indian Residential School Survivors Society 1.866.925.4419
  • Kids Help Phone 1.800.668.6868 or text 686868 – you may request to speak to an Indigenous crisis responder to receive personalized support
As an organization honoured to work on Indigenous lands and serve more than 1,000 Indigenous people a year, we are devastated by this recent news. Through our work we see the many harmful impacts that residential schools, and colonialism more generally, continue to have in our community; particularly as experienced by our Indigenous service users and other Indigenous people that make up our community at JHS. We recognize that there is extensive work to be done, both as an organization and as a community, to truly work towards reconciliation in a lasting and genuine way that is meaningful for Indigenous Peoples.
 

As individuals with our own personal connections to this territory, the First Nations stewarding this land, and the haunting legacy of colonialism, we recognize our personal responsibility to continue to work towards reconciliation, learn from Indigenous Peoples and integrate their leadership and knowledge into our work.

“Words are not enough. Reconciliation requires deliberate, thoughtful, and sustained action”

The Honourable Murray Sinclair

At JHS Pacific, we are in an ongoing process of assessing how we can improve our supports to Indigenous Peoples, and how we can transform the way that we operate as an organization to advance our journey towards reconciliation. One of the primary pillars in our new three-year strategic plan is to advance reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. We will be holding ourselves accountable to this priority, and look forward to sharing more details about what this looks like in practice soon, to ensure that our community can hold us accountable too.

Today marks the beginning of National Indigenous History Month, when across the country we celebrate the history, heritage, and diversity of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples in Canada. As the news of the atrocities in Kamloops remind us, this history includes violence, tragedy, and sorrow. This is not just our history, but our present as well.

We are committed to our role in reconciliation and decolonization, and to continuous listening and learning.

The residential school system existed in Canada for over 120 years, with the last residential school closing only 25 years ago in 1996. The unimaginable traumas caused by the system are among a long and ongoing series of traumatic, racist, and harmful practices and systemic failures that have and continue to gravely impact Indigenous Peoples across the country. Judge Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC), described residential schools as “cultural genocide” that tried to “erase from the face of the earth, the culture and history of many great and proud peoples”.  The legacy of residential schools continues to shape the lives of Indigenous people in Canada today.

The TRC determined conservatively that at least 3,200 children died while at  Residential School; more than one in every 50 of the over 150,000 students. The true number of deaths are thought to be as high as 6,000 or more.

There are many resources available if you would like to learn more about residential schools in Canada. We’ve shared the links to just a few of the resources below.

Canada’s Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials  Learn about the research done by the TRC, and what the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation continues to do to find all the children who never returned home from Residential School in Volume 4 of The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future Read the 94 Calls to Action that came through the Final Report of the TRC.

National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Learn more about the TRC, and access a range of other important and relevant supports for survivors of residential schools and their families, researchers, media, and the public.

Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS)  To learn more about the IRSSS the services the organization provides to residential school survivors, visit the IRSSS websitecaus