Members of shíshálh Nation, community leaders and the general public have been mourning the loss and honouring the lives of 215 children who were found buried on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, which Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced on May 28.
On Monday, May 31, a ceremony was held at the site of shíshálh Nation's residential school memorial statue, located near the nation's government buildings, with speeches from residential school survivors, hiwus (chief) Warren Paull and other community leaders, as well as a moment of silence observed at 2:15 p.m.
The monument was blanketed by two nation elders, also residential school survivors, “to do some of the healing work,” said the nation’s protector of culture Steven Feschuk, who emceed the event. “This mother here, is now representative of a mother to those 215 children that did not make it home,” he said.
His father, Garry Feschuk, who helped found the syiyaya Reconciliation Movement, said “across Canada the wounds are resurfacing again,” and asked that survivors be supported over the coming week. “Every bit of work we do, do not leave our survivors behind,” he said.
Sunshine Coast Regional District, Town of Gibsons and District of Sechelt Canadian flags are flying at half-mast for nine days until Wednesday, June 9, one hour for each child who died.
“Our hearts and thoughts go out to these children, their families and all generations of people impacted by the cultural genocide, abuse and neglect that took place in facilities like these,” said Sechelt Mayor Darnelda Siegers in a release. “I am glad we have the opportunity to join with the syiyaya Reconciliation Movement to guide our journey towards building a future of mutual respect, trust and friendship. It is not a solution, but it is a place to start.”
Town of Gibsons council observed 2 minutes and 15 seconds of silence at the start of their June 1 regular council meeting.
School District No. 46 (SD46) described the news as “heartbreaking and devastating” in a letter circulated to families acknowledging the news and sharing resources for support, and at 2:15 the district also observed one minute of silence “to honour those children who attended the residential school in Kamloops, their families, and communities,” with many students and staff wearing orange shirts throughout the week.
The district said its messages to students would be age-appropriate “and gentle.” The district also lowered its flags to half-mast “until further notice, as a sign of respect.”