CORNWALL, Ontario – On Saturday, June 5 well over one-hundred demonstrators gathered in Cornwall in front of St. Columban’s Church for a march in honour of the 215 children who were found in a mass grave at the former Kamloops Residential School in Kamloops, BC.
Georgina Lazore is a first generation survivor of the Kamloops Residential School. Her parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins attended the school.
“The truth is out now and the Canadian government and the U.S. governments must be held accountable,” Lazore said. “In memory of the 215 children, let’s take a peaceful walk and help put them to rest.”
The march began at 2:15 p.m. when the bells of St. Columban’s Church was tolled 215 times. The march proceeded from the church to Pitt St., then down to Lamoureux Park. The procession ended at the boat launch, where Lazore and others threw white roses into the water of the St. Lawrence River to symbolically put the children who suffered in residential schools to rest.
“215 children were ripped out of their parent’s arms and brought to a strange place, with strange people,” Lazore said. “Their names were stripped away and they were given numbers. If they spoke their mother tongue, then they were whooped with a strap.”
Lazore said that after the discovery of the mass grave at the Kamloops Residential School, her mother, who attended the school began to remember what life was like at the school. Lazore said that her uncle tried to run away from the school at age nine and was caught by the RCMP 25 kilometers from the school and was forced to return.
“My uncle never did speak of his punishment, but I can imagine what it was,” she said.
Lazore called on everyone in attendance to reach out to their MP, MPP and the Catholic Church to hold them accountable.
On Saturday, morning, Marcel Dampousse, Archbishop of the Ottawa-Cornwall Diocese appeared on CBC’s Ottawa Morning to discuss the church’s role in the residential school system.
“The little I know is that the government is the one that called upon the Catholic Church to help out. The Catholic Church [sought] to help from the religious communities at the time,” he said.
Dampousse went on to characterize the residential school system as fundamentally flawed.
“From my own perspective as just a human being, there’s something absolutely wrong here,” Damphousse said. “I don’t understand how that can happen, and so, belonging to the Catholic Church, there’s a great feeling of shame.”
The Catholic Church ran as much as 70 per cent of residential schools in Canada.
“They accomplished cultural genocide to a large extent,” Lazore said.
Lazore ended the ceremony with a quote from her uncle Amos who attended the school upon hearing of the discovery of the 215 children.
“Canada has no right to speak to anyone of human rights ever again,” she said.