We were deeply saddened to hear the news last week of the burial site of 215 children on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
We cannot imagine the tremendous grief and pain the families and communities of these children are feeling. Today we honour their memories, and our thoughts are with their families and communities, residential school survivors and all who are mourning.
These children were taken from their families and sent to government-run residential schools, where they were denied the use of their language, cultural practices and traditions from their communities.
When they died, they were buried anonymously on the grounds of the school. The parents often did not find out until months later, and in many cases not at all.
This is a heartbreaking legacy of Canada’s colonialism. As settlers and newcomers to Canada, we need to learn from this tragedy and focus on truth and reconciliation. We must educate ourselves and others while we support the survivors of the residential school system so they can get fair and just opportunities today.
We can honour the victims by fighting against racism, bias and injustice everywhere we see it.
As a university, it is our responsibility to help lead the next generation to a brighter future without racism and one that includes equal opportunities for all.
June is National Indigenous History Month, a time to celebrate the rich and diverse voices, experiences and histories of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people in Canada and their contributions to this country.
For us at UCW, that includes celebrating the history of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, whose traditional and unceded territories are the land on which UCW is situated.
It is a proud history rich in culture and achievement, but, as last week’s discovery reminds us, it is also a history that includes much sorrow and devastation, the effects of which are still being felt today.
To learn more about Canada’s residential school system visit It’s Our Time: The AFN Education Toolkit from the Assembly of First Nations.
Brock Dykeman, UCW President & Vice-Chancellor
Published on May 31, 2021.