We extend our solidarity and condolences during this devastating time to the First Nations community in Tk’emlúpste te Secwépemc territory and across this land.
We are shocked and saddened by the reports of the discovery of the remains of 215 children, some young as three, at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. This is another terrible chapter in the dark and horrific legacy of residential schools.
These Indigenous children were taken from their land, isolated from their homes, forced into residential schools, and finally, died while in care of church and state. For decades, their lives were left unaccounted for.
Over 130 residential schools were built across Canada and operated between 1831 until 1996. The Kamloops Indian Residential School was one of the largest residential schools and operated from 1893 to 1978. It was opened and run by the Catholic Church until the federal government took it over in the late 1960s.
Children were ripped from their families – their names, culture and language erased. Disturbing and unspeakable horrors took place within the walls and grounds of these colonial institutions. This was and is genocide. We cannot call it by any other name.
Today, OPSEU/SEFPO reaffirms its commitment and responsibility to truth and reconciliation. We remain firm and steadfast in our support to the six calls-to-action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report as outlined in the “Missing children and burial information” Action 71 to 76.
The historical oppression passed through intergenerational trauma caused by residential schools continues to have heartbreaking and devastating impacts on First Nation communities.
We must act now and not further delay justice for these 215 children, their loved ones, their communities and all survivors of residential schools.
While we applaud the federal government’s recent actions in passing Bill C-5, we now call on the Senate to pass this legislation that would designate September 30 as a national day for truth and reconciliation. This date is already widely recognized as Orange T-Shirt Day amongst Indigenous communities across Canada. Orange T-Shirt Day witnesses and honours the healing journey of residential school survivors and their families while committing to the ongoing process of reconciliation.
All flagpoles at OPSEU/SEFPO buildings have been lowered to half-mast from May 31 – June 8, 2021 for 215 hours in honour of each of the 215 children whose remains were found buried at the former residential school.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU/SEFPO President
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer
Krista Maracle, OPSEU/SEFPO Chair, Indigenous Circle