On Sunday May 30th, flags across Canada flew at half-mast. The reason was to mourn 215 children whose remains were discovered on the grounds of a former boarding school. Setting up the former boarding school was for the purpose to assimilate indigenous peoples more than a century ago.
Twitter post from Canada’s PM
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a post on Twitter. The post said, “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 (in Ottawa) and flags on all federal buildings be flown at half-mast.“
Several municipalities announced they would also lower their flags. This included the economic metropolis of Toronto.
Strong emotions were sparked throughout Canada, especially its indigenous communities, after the discovery of the children’s remains. Some of the bodies were of children as young as three years.
The Tk’emlups te Secwepemc tribe issued a statement late on Thursday. The statement said a specialist used ground-penetrating radar to detect the bodies. The specialist was able to confirm the remains of the students who attended the school. The location of the school building is near Kamloops, British Columbia.
Origins of the former boarding school
Back in the late 19th century, the Kamloops Indian Residential School was the largest of 139 boarding schools. The school was able to register and accommodate up to 500 students at any one time.
On behalf of the Canadian government, the Catholic Church ran the school from 1890 to 1969.
It was estimated that almost 150,000 Indian, Inuit and Metis native youngsters were all forcibly enrolled in these schools. In the schools, headmasters and teachers physically and sexually abused the students and stripped them of their language and culture.
The results of the abuse
Today, there is a high incidence of poverty, domestic violence and alcoholism along with high suicide rates in these native communities. There is a clear link back to those past experiences.
Back in 2008, as part of a C$1.9 billion (US$1.6 billion) settlement, Ottawa formally offered its apologies to the former residential students. The commission termed it a “cultural genocide”.
On Sunday, Perry Bellegarde, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, made a television appearance. Bellegarde said on the news channel CTV “I’ve said before that the residential schools was a genocide of our people. Here’s just another glowing example of that genocide in practice: undocumented deaths of children.”
There is more work to do
There is still a lot of work to do, according to Bellegarde, such as identification of all the remains. Authorities must also locate the next of kin. The sites of such other residential schools must also undergo thorough examinations.
The federal government is responsible to make sure that resources are in place to get all the answers, says Bellegarde.
Honoring the victims
Throughout the country, ceremonies both took place and are currently taking place to honor the young victims. On Sunday in the Mohawk community of Kahnawake, near Montreal, around 100 people gathered to honor the victims.
As a tribute to the victims, children’s shoes and toys were put on the steps of the Saint Francis Xavier church. The participants attending the memorial service left the items there.
31st May 2021 23:00
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