Canada mourns as remains of 215 children found at indigenous school – BBC News

A new classroom building at the Kamloops Indian Residential School is seen in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada circa 1950
The Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia once housed 500 children – Reuters

A mass grave containing the remains of 215 children has been found in Canada at a former residential school set up to assimilate indigenous people.

The children were students at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia that closed in 1978.

The discovery was announced on Thursday  May 27, by the chief of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was a “painful reminder” of a “shameful chapter of our country’s history”.

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Comments

  • brandli62  On 05/30/2021 at 1:53 am

    Another horrible episode is unfolding in the painful and frequently condescending relationship between the Canadian authorities and the First Nations. What will it take to mend this relationship for the good? What needs to be done?

    What are the opinions of the Guyanese diaspora in Canada, who are much more familiar with the situation than myself observing the reports from Switzerland.

    • Anton  On 05/30/2021 at 1:03 pm

      I have never been impressed with the way Canada had and continues to treat the original people. Ironically Canada in ’60’s sent advisors to then BG to inform us how best to handle our own. If I am not mistaken it was these advisors who determined that we should move away from the reservation system as it being inhumane. Being part Arawak I can safely say that compared to Canada we have done a better job with our original people.

      • brandli62  On 05/30/2021 at 2:51 pm

        It’s good to hear that assessment from you, Anton. It matches my subjective feelings about the Amerindians, which I could gather during a few trips to the interior in the past. The first people of Guyana always came across to me as proud, self-confident and happier than their cousins across the border in Brazil or other parts of South America. What really drove me mad was my mother’s use of a nick name for Amerindians, , which I will not mention here. I felt it was derogatory, but she did not understand my anger as she felt everybody in Guyana was doing the same. Hard to comprehend given that she had experienced as a black Guyanese women her fair share of prejudice.

      • Dennis Albert  On 05/30/2021 at 6:03 pm

        As much as I criticise the PPP, the PPP would NEVER, I REPEAT, NEVER engage in genocide like the white settlers from Europe.

    • wally n  On 05/30/2021 at 1:49 pm

      Lack of concentrated leadership,and single voice representation. I never paid much attention, my daughter and son in law in Sault Ste. Marie are in the middle. My grandson studying “lawyering” had to do research on the subject, got some useful information from him.
      My feeling closing window for Natives, encroaching and accelerating over powering of today’s society, lack of fire in younger generation, caused partially by the Dissolution of race mixing, allegedly shady chiefs.What is needed, a few more
      of Jody Wilson-Raybould type, strong, non compromising, in leadership positions, someone young people can look up to.
      Time is running out.

      • Dennis Albert  On 05/30/2021 at 6:05 pm

        Hey Wally is true that a white Canadian can identify as “Amerindian” if they have at least 0.0001% of Canadian indigenous ancestry?

  • Dennis Albert  On 05/30/2021 at 9:13 am

    How is murder of children “assimilation”?

    Canada is a weird country. At least in America, they admit that they had a history of genocide by small pox.

  • wally n  On 05/30/2021 at 6:53 pm

    Don’t know, but ask Elizabeth Warren she should have more information.good luck

  • fgsjr2015  On 05/30/2021 at 9:04 pm

    An average person might want to consider such an atrocity as having ‘happened long ago’/‘in the past’ and believe that, or therefore, humanity could/would not permit them to happen again, in much more modern times. I, however, doubt that is the way large-scale societies — let alone border-segregated, independent nations — necessarily behave collectively.

    After almost 3.5 decades of news consumption, I’ve noticed that a disturbingly large number of categorized people, however precious their souls, can be considered thus treated as though disposable, even to an otherwise democratic nation. When the young children of those people take notice of this, tragically, they’re vulnerable to begin perceiving themselves as beings without value. When I say this, I primarily have in mind indigenous-nation (and Black) Canadians and Americans. But I know it happens worldwide.

    While the inhuman devaluation of these people is basically based on race, it still somewhat reminds me of an external devaluation, albeit a subconscious one, of the daily civilian lives lost in protractedly devastating war zones and heavily armed sieges. They can eventually receive meagre column inches on the back page in the First World’s daily news. (To the newspaper owners/editors, of course, it’s just the news business and nothing personal.)

    • Chris  On 05/31/2021 at 6:23 am

      Ever since Christopher Columbus reached the shores of the Americas on the Pinta, the Nina, and the Santa Maria in 1492, European invaders have been committing mass genocide. It’s culturally ingrained. The discovery of that mass grave at a school ran by the Roman Catholic Church should come as no surprise. Additionally, cultural genocide was a concomitant (accompanying) reality suffered by Indigenous peoples all over the Americas. The loss they suffered is immeasurable. Needless to say, the genocide extended to the millions of peoples taken from their homelands in Africa, Asia, and, to a lesser degree, Europe- viz, the Irish. The Roman Catholic Church has systemically covered up abuses inflicted on the innocent- a saga that has been well documented.

      • fgsjr2015  On 06/03/2021 at 7:33 pm

        Re: “Needless to say, the genocide extended to the millions of peoples taken from their homelands in Africa … ”

        Beginning as a young boy watching the original release of the 1977 TV miniseries ‘Roots’, I can recall how bewildered I’d always get just by the concept of Black people being brutalized and told they were not welcome — while they, as a people, had been violently forced here from their African home as slaves! And, as a people, there has been no “reparations” or real refuge here for them, since. In Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved, the narrator notes that, like the South, the Civil War era northern states also hated Black people but happened to hate slavery more.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 06/02/2021 at 9:52 pm

    We confirmed recently what Indigenous people have been saying for decades:

    That residential schools, like Kamloops Indian Residential School, are unrecorded burial sites of hundreds of First Nations children.

    At the BC NDP, we wish to share our deepest condolences with the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, and all the families impacted by the genocidal legacy of the Residential School System.

    Premier John Horgan spoke at the BC Legislature and called for a moment of silence.

    We must never allow this to happen again. We encourage all British Columbians to reflect on, remember, and honour the victims, and to support organizations that are helping survivors.

    If you or your loved ones have been impacted by residential schools, the national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide 24/7 support.

    Call: 1-866-925-4419.

    Thank you,
    Your BC NDP Team

  • wally n  On 06/03/2021 at 3:16 pm

    Nothing ever comes of this TALK..TALK..TALK..
    “Ottawa promises ‘transformative change’ to address violence directed at Indigenous women and girls”..June 2021)
    and here we go again…all the Governments treat them as less than second class citizens
    trudeau tried to man handle the Attorney General…she stared his ass down, ACTION is all that is required

    • fgsjr2015  On 06/03/2021 at 7:34 pm

      The children’s mass grave(s), as sadly anticipated as the find was, must not be in vain. Rather, it must mark the start of a substantial progressive move forward for indigenous nations, especially regarding life’s fundamental necessities (proper shelter and clean air, water and food).

  • wally n  On 06/04/2021 at 2:20 pm

    We could have had flavor flav but we took this………………
    “Catholic Church needs to ‘take responsibility’ for residential schools, Trudeau says”
    Kick the ball down the road, that is what I do ,best…..
    TALK TALK TALK…………………

  • Clyde Duncan  On 06/04/2021 at 7:32 pm

    Archdiocese of Toronto

    Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Residential Schools – June 2021

    There has been considerable media coverage and discussion in recent days following the discovery of children’s remains at the former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia.

    The discovery has reopened a painful wound for many in our country and has identified the need for all Canadians to learn more about our history, the role of residential schools as part of that journey and to seek the truth regarding all those who suffered and continue to do so to this day.

    The abuse of Indigenous peoples is a dark chapter in the history of Canada and the Catholic Church. While the Church has cared for and served Indigenous people in many ways, it is undeniable that some members of the Church undermined the dignity of First Nations people. There is evidence that much of this abuse occurred at residential schools, which were largely operated by Christian denominations.

    This communication is intended to provide some context and address some frequently asked questions about this important issue. We must all join in the collective efforts on the path to healing and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

    1. I am deeply troubled by the discovery of children’s remains in Kamloops on the site of a former residential school. Who operated the school?

    The discovery of 215 unmarked graves in late May 2021 will require further investigation to help seek the truth of who these children were, how they died and how they were buried so far from home.

    The school was built and initially operated by the federal government, opening in 1890. In 1892, the federal government asked a Catholic order, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, to take over operations, which they did until 1969.

    The federal government resumed operations of the school from 1969 until its closure in 1979.

    The religious order issued a formal apology in 1991 in addition to paying settlements to residential school survivors. An excerpt of the apology reads as follows:

    “We wish to apologize in a very particular way for the instances of physical and sexual abuse that occurred in those schools…Far from attempting to defend or rationalize these cases of abuse in any way, we wish to state publicly that we acknowledge they were inexcusable, intolerable and a betrayal of trust in one of its most serious forms.

    We deeply and very specifically, apologize to every victim of such abuse and we seek help in searching for means to bring about healing.”

    2. Is the Catholic Church assisting with the efforts to seek the truth in Kamloops and elsewhere?

    Father Ken Thorson, current Superior of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, has reached out to the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc Chief Rosanne Casimir to offer assistance and to express sympathies following the discovery of the remains of 215 children on the grounds of the former school.

    Father Thorson has communicated that records from the Kamloops Indian Residential School are with the Royal British Columbia Museum and has indicated the order will assist in sharing any information regarding records at this and other locations where the order operated schools.

    Among the groups of dioceses and religious communities that operated residential schools, there is a spirit of cooperation with Indigenous peoples with regards to personal records and information relating to the former schools. At the same time, there are also privacy rights, including those of Indigenous peoples who attended these schools, which need to be taken into consideration on a case by case basis.

    3. Why aren’t we hearing an apology from the Catholic Church in Canada?

    There is no such entity as the Catholic Church of Canada. Each Catholic diocese and religious order is an independent legal entity. Despite this reality, in 1991, Canadian Catholic Bishops, along with leaders of men and women religious communities, issued a statement that “We are sorry and deeply regret the pain, suffering and alienation that so many experienced” at residential schools.

    Approximately 16 out of 70 Roman Catholic dioceses in Canada were associated with the former residential schools, in addition to about three dozen out of over one hundred Catholic institutes (commonly referred to as religious orders). Each diocese and institute is corporately and legally responsible for its own actions.

    Many of the dioceses or orders operating schools have offered apologies, dating back to the early 1990s. In recent days, many bishops throughout Canada have offered statements and introduced other initiatives to continue our ongoing path to truth and reconciliation.

    A listing of some of the numerous apologies and other resources can be found at:
    http://bit.ly/CCCBreconciliationDocuments

    4. Did the Archdiocese of Toronto operate residential schools?

    The Archdiocese of Toronto did NOT operate residential schools yet we share the collective grief and sorrow as the result of any representative of the Catholic Church inflicting pain or abuse on an individual, especially vulnerable children.

    5. Have Indigenous leaders met with the Pope?

    YES, in 2009, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Phil Fontaine, along with other Indigenous representatives, had a moving encounter with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. In describing the meeting, Chief Fontaine told the media he hoped the expression of regret would “close the book” on the issue of apologies for residential school survivors.

    Another attendee at the meeting with Pope Benedict, Edward John, Grand Chief of the First Nations Summit in British Columbia, said the Pope acknowledged the suffering of those who are still living with the effects of their experiences at the schools. In comments to the media he said, “I think in that sense, there was that apology that we were certainly looking for.”

    The Catholic Church continues to work alongside and with Indigenous communities in order to foster an ongoing culture of reconciliation. There have been, and continue to be, numerous initiatives by Catholic dioceses, institutes and organizations throughout Canada to assist with support of ongoing healing and the reconciliation journey.

    6. I understand there was a formal request in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report for the Pope to personally apologize in Canada?

    The Holy Father has already been invited to Canada by the present and previous Prime Minister. The Catholic Bishops of Canada, including the current and past Presidents of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, have assured the Pope they would joyfully and gratefully welcome him in a visit to Canada.

    Likewise, in a number of instances, Canadian Bishops, individually and collectively, have formally invited Pope Francis to visit, including with specific reference to Call to Action #58 (a recommendation of the 2015 Truth & Reconciliation Commission asking the Holy Father to apologize on Canadian soil within one year of the report being issued).

    Pope Francis has encouraged the Bishops to continue taking leadership and assuming their proper role in pursuing their pastoral engagement and reconciliation efforts with Indigenous peoples, including ongoing conversations among the Bishops and Elders. This work builds on past apologies, dialogue and the desire to move forward together.

    A formal papal visit involves a number of steps from both government and church leadership as well as significant logistical, financial commitments and other considerations. No papal visit has been publicly announced at this time.

    7. Will the Catholic Church pay financial reparations to those harmed by residential schools?

    The Catholic entities that operated residential schools were part of the 2006 Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement (IRSSA).

    The Holy See and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops were never involved in running the former schools. The “Roman Catholic Entities” named as parties in the IRSSA were legally deemed to have fulfilled the requirements of the settlement agreement by a judicial review. Following this review, the former Conservative government released the entities from further obligations – a decision which the present Liberal government did not appeal.

    The 50 or so individual entities which signed the IRSSA paid:

    i. $29 million in cash (less legal costs);
    ii. more than the required $25 million of “in-kind” contributions; and
    iii. an additional $3.7 million from a “best efforts” campaign.

    Those same entities, together with other dioceses, institutes and national Catholic organizations, continue to be involved in efforts across the country to provide in-kind contributions, which go well beyond the scope of the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement.

    8. Where can I find additional resources?

    Our Lady of Guadalupe Circle is a Catholic coalition of Indigenous people, bishops, lay movements, clergy and institutes of consecrated life, engaged in renewing and fostering relationships between the Catholic Church and Indigenous Peoples in Canada. For more information visit: http://www.ourladyofguadalupecircle.ca.

    Copyright © 2021 | Archdiocese of Toronto, All rights reserved.

    Our mailing address is:
    Archdiocese of Toronto
    1155 Yonge Street
    Toronto, Ontario M4T 1W2

  • Clyde Duncan  On 06/04/2021 at 7:39 pm

    Archdiocese of Toronto — June 3, 2021

    “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it.” (1 Cor 12:26)

    In recent days, the country has been shocked, saddened and angered by the discovery of the remains of 215 children in unmarked graves who attended a residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia. We pray for the children who died in Kamloops and in residential schools throughout the country – they must not be forgotten. We must also recognize the betrayal of trust by many Catholic leaders who were responsible for operating residential schools, abandoning their obligation to care for young and innocent children.

    We all seek the truth and this tragic discovery provides yet another opportunity for us to learn more about this dark chapter in our history and the painful journey experienced by so many of our Indigenous brothers and sisters.

    There is much more work to be done. Since the 1990’s, many of the Catholic entities responsible for the operation of residential schools have apologized publicly for their actions and have journeyed together with victims on the path to truth and reconciliation. This includes the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the religious order that operated the residential school in Kamloops, which over the weekend again apologized for its role in the residential school system. Pope Benedict XVI also had the chance to meet with Indigenous leaders in 2009 to personally express his sorrow and anguish.

    These actions do not erase our history; they acknowledge our past, force us to face the consequences of our behaviour and compel us to ensure that our sins are not repeated.

    While the Archdiocese of Toronto did not operate residential schools, we join with the Indigenous peoples, the Catholic community and Canadians from coast to coast to coast in a period of collective grief for those who are physically, emotionally and spiritually wounded.

    This Sunday, I will offer Mass for those who died or were abused at residential schools and for all those who deal with the intergenerational trauma caused by this system. We must also continue to build on the tangible initiatives present throughout the country, like the Our Lady of Guadalupe Circle, where bishops and priests, women religious, laity and Indigenous peoples are committed to walking together on a path to reconciliation.

    As I have stated previously when speaking of abuse in the Church, the real scandal is when evil festers in the darkness. Once in the open, evil can be rooted out. That must happen. Then new life can begin. Let us journey together to find light through the darkness once again.

    Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us.

    Thomas Collins
    Archbishop of Toronto

  • H. WILKIE  On 06/06/2021 at 7:35 am

    Makes one wonder what religion is all about.

  • brandli62  On 06/07/2021 at 5:35 am

    This is all so tragic and painful to read. According to the accounts given above, the school was built and initially operated by the federal government, opening in 1890. In 1892, the federal government asked a Catholic order, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, to take over operations, which they did until 1969.The federal government resumed operations of the school from 1969 until its closure in 1979. The question that arrises now, when did the 215 children in unmarked graves die? Can we find out the causes of death? Could they have did of infectious diseases? Were they casualties of the Spanish flu, which ravaged between 1918 and 1920?

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