Flags in Nunavut at half-mast in honour of Kamloops residential school children

Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announces discovery of mass grave at former school

Children’s shoes sit outside St. Jude’s Anglican cathedral in Iqaluit in memory of 215 children whose bodies were discovered last year in a mass grave n Kamloops, B.C. the weekend, as Canadians mourn their loss and deal with the grief of what the discovery means. (File photo by Dustin Patar)

By Jane George

Flags will fly at half-mast on all territorial government buildings in Nunavut until June 9 following the discovery last week of a mass grave at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.

The remains of 215 children were found buried at the site after Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation hired a specialist to use ground-penetrating radar to survey the property, according to a statement from the First Nation on May 27.

Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq announced the gesture Sunday, saying the discovery “leaves all Indigenous people in this country heartbroken and grieving.”

“In remembrance of these beautiful souls, taken, disregarded and dishonoured by a system meant to break them, the Government of Nunavut will lower all its flags to half-mast for nine days — 215 hours for 215 loved children,” he stated.

Some of Nunavut’s communities are following suit, including Iqaluit and Baker Lake.

Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell said it is “extremely important to remember the lives scarred, ruined and taken by residential schools.”

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He said it is “unimaginable” that this happened within his lifetime — in Canada, and urged the federal government to continue work to fulfill the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action.

Flags will also be flown at half-mast on all federal government offices, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Canada’s residential school system dates back to the 1880s, with the last school closing in 1996. The federal government ran 139 of these schools across the country, including 13 in Nunavut.

In 2015, the TRC commissioners summarized testimony given to them by 6,750 Indigenous residential school survivors and research into the archival history of residential schools.

That testimony documents that residential school staff, many who worked for churches, tortured, raped and sexually abused Indigenous children, and committed other violent acts and indignities.

There have been calls to extradite one former residential staff member who is accused of abusing Inuit children during his time in Nunavut. Father Johannes Rivoire, now 90, was known to have worked in Chesterfield Inlet, the site of the infamous Sir Joseph Bernier School. The crimes he is accused of date back to the 1960s.

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In its final report, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission made 94 recommendations to governments and urged all Canadians to embrace the principle of reconciliation with Indigenous people.

Those who are in distress over the revelation of the children’s deaths can contact the 24-hour Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419 to access emotional supports and crisis referral if needed.

The IRSSS (Indian Residential School Survivors Society) Emergency Crisis line is also available 24/7 for those that may need counselling support: 1-800-721-0066.

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(8) Comments:

  1. Posted by Paradigm Shift on

    I strongly suspect there are many more sites like this across the country. This is not likely to be the only one.

  2. Posted by Sad Canadian on

    That is sad to hear all those dead children , make you wonder , how many other unmarked graves are out there.

    • Posted by Tax payer on

      I wonder , what Canadian Senator Lynn Beyak has to say , hearing the news concerning 215 innocent children, thrown into unmarked graves.

      • Posted by Oh Ima on

        Never mind Lyn Bayek, what about Andrew Sheer! Jagmeek Sing made an emotional statement.

  3. Posted by Details please on

    I have read many articles on this topic. No normal person would feel anything but sadness and disdain for a mass grave of children. But I am concerned many people, including those who have political agendas, are using these deaths without any proof or details of what happened. There may be many explanations about this, why it happened, and who was involved. To jump to conclusions that a grave on a site that at some point was a federally run school neglects many other possible explanations for its being there. Using the deaths of 215 children before there any conclusions about what happened to further an agenda is almost as bad as the fact that 215 died in the first place.

    • Posted by Fair Dinkum on

      This is an important observation to make, but one that will naturally and obviously raise suspicion that you are trying to smuggle in some form of rationalization here. I will take it on good faith that that is not what you are doing, because I do not see that in your words here.

    • Posted by Temp on

      True, there may be some who try to take advantage, but everyone I talk to is just horrified that this could happen in Canada; when I first read about it, my initial reaction was anger. I’m guessing that most died from disease because of the horrible conditions they were living in. Imagine being a child, away from home, sick and dying. It is absolutely heartbreaking. I’m still angry, to be honest.

      • Posted by iThink on

        There isn’t much doubt that everyone is horrified, except maybe a few with seriously distorted thinking. Those “trying to take advantage” – which in this spirit of ‘Details please’s’ comment, is those jumping on this for some kind of political purpose and using it to feed some kind of agenda (I am not weighing in or speculating on what those might be here) should be understood as people who care and are horrified too, but are eager to make some kind of point that may not connect with reality. Again, not trying to smuggle anything in, only take note of how ideas of any kind can traverse our discourse.

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