Descendant of residential school survivors remembers lost children

Image of Nick Seebruch
By Nick Seebruch
Descendant of residential school survivors remembers lost children
Georgina Lazore points to a protest sign posted on St. Columban's Church in Cornwall on Tuesday, June 1, 2021 (Nick Seebruch/ Seaway News).

CORNWALL, Ontario – On Tuesday, June 1, residents of Akwesasne setup a shrine in memory of the 215 Indigenous children who’s bodies were discovered on Thursday, May 27 on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

The shrine, as well as signs of protest were setup in front of the St. Columban’s Catholic Church on Fourth St. W. in Cornwall by Georgina Lazore and Tara Francis. The Catholic Church was responsible for running the residential school system. The last residential school closed in 1996.

The protest signs read “these babies had families who loved them,” and “be accountable churches.” Francis and Lazore said that St. Columban’s Church was supportive of them placing the protest signs on the church door and creating the shrine in front of the main entrance.

“They showed really great support,” Francis said. “They are allowing us to be on site for 10 days.”

The shrine included clothing, toys, and food and will be left in place for 10 days to honour the children who died.

“Within our culture, you give food every night to the deceased for 10 days so that they can take it with them to the sky world,” said Francis.

Lazore moved to the Cornwall area in 1991 from Lillooet, BC, where she was part of the St’át’imc First Nation. Members of Lazore’s family attended the Kamloops Indian Residential School where the mass grave of children’s bodies was found.

“I am happy it’s been uncovered,” Lazore said. “We’ve been called liars.”

Lazore explained that she herself almost went to the Kamloops Indian Residential School, but was kept out by her parents. She calls herself a first generation residential school survivor.

“I cried when my friends and cousins and aunties and uncles were taken away on the buses,” she said. “My parents told me I could never ever go, but would never tell me why. I thank them for saving me.”

The municipalities of the City of Cornwall and the United Counties of SD&G both lowered their flags to half mast in recognition of the sad discovery in Kamloops, as did the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (MCA).

“It is an emotion and sad discovery,” said MCA Grand Chief Abram Benedict. “For some of those who attended residential schools this brings back some sad and painful memories.”

Lazore and Francis say that they plan to hold a protest march on Saturday, June 5 that will begin in front of St. Columban’s Church at 2 p.m.

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