Flags at federal buildings across the country, and at the BC Legislature, are being lowered Sunday (May 30) to honour the 215 children found buried on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops.
The discovery of the bodies was confirmed Thursday (May 27) by the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation. The children’s remains were found by using ground penetrating radar.
The Kamloops residential school operated between 1890 and 1969, where as many as 500 children were enrolled at one time. The federal government took over the facility’ from the Catholic Church and ran it as a day school until it closed in 1978.
The National Truth and Reconciliation Commission has records of at least 51 children dying at the school between 1915 and 1963.
The Chief of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, R. Stacey LaForme, wrote Trudeau on Saturday to ask the government to lower the flags and declare a national day of mourning.
“There is a lot more to be done but first and foremost, we need to do this to show love and respect to the 215 children, all of the children, and their families,” LaForme said in a statement. “This should be a moment that the country never forgets.”
Sol Mamakwa, an Indigenous NDP legislator who represents the Ontario riding of Kiiwetinoong, called on the province and Canadian government to work with all First Nations to look for remains at other defunct residential schools.
“It is a great open secret that our children lie on the properties of the former schools — an open secret that Canadians can no longer look away from,” Mamakwa said in a statement. “In keeping with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Missing Children Projects, every school site must be searched for the graves of our ancestors.”
“To honour the 215 children whose lives were taken at the former Kamloops residential school and all Indigenous children who never made it home, the survivors, and their families, I have asked that the Peace Tower flag and flags on all federal buildings be flown at half-mast,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement Sunday.
National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419.