CORNWALL, Ontario – Regional municipalities have reacted with shock and sadness to the discovery of a mass grave of 215 Indigenous children in Kamloops, BC at the site of a former residential school.
The discovery was made on Thursday, May 27 at the Kamloops Indian Residential School on the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation.
The City of Cornwall, the United Counties of SD&G, and the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (MCA) all have lowered their flags to half mast as a sign of mourning for the children who were killed.
“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.”
Benedict said that the MCA lowered the flag in front of their administration building to half mast on Sunday, and that he spoke with some MCA residents who attended residential schools themselves. He said that while not all experiences were bad, that he wished that more Canadians would learn and read about this dark chapter in Canadian history.
“The whole story of residential schools is something that people should read more and learn about,” he said. “People need to know that these things are real. It is about healing and understanding.”
The City of Cornwall announced that it would be lowering flags at its municipal buildings to half staff for 215 hours, one hour for each child that was found.
“It is with deep sadness that we hear of the remains of 215 children buried at a former residential school. Our sadness however does not compare to the suffering and injustice that the Indigenous people of Canada have endured,” Cornwall Mayor Bernadette Clement wrote in a statement on social media. “The discovery of these remains serves as a reminder of the cruelty and horrendous conditions that Indigenous children and their families have experienced. It also shows the insufficient attention paid to investigating this cultural genocide, finding answers and acknowledging the generational pain.”
Clement said that she reached out to Grand Chief Benedict and offered support.
“Our neighbours, the Mohawks of Akwesasne, are an important part of our community and we must try harder to recognize and acknowledge this dark history and to understand the impact it has had on Indigenous people and their communities. In order to do better and be better, we must all seek a deeper understanding of Indigenous history, culture, and the lived experience of generational pain and racism that still exists today,” she wrote.
United Counties of SD&G Warden Frank Prevost said that he had also ordered flags be lowered in response to the discovery in BC.
“We are heart-broken, and the discovery of the remains should galvanize all Canadians in doubling our efforts to root out systemic racism and pay tribute to Indigenous children who lost their lives while being forced into a residential school system that should have never existed,” reads a statement from the Warden.
“At least 3,200 children died amid abuse and neglect as part of the residential school system in this country,” Warden Prevost’s statement goes on to read. “Not enough has been done to call attention to the cultural genocide this school system inflicted upon First Nations, and to acknowledge the pain experienced by Indigenous peoples for generations. Our friends, the Mohawks of Akwesasne, and all First Nations peoples deserve more from us. A greater accounting of the terrible injustices inflicted upon all Indigenous peoples in our country will lead to a better understanding of the culture and traditions that have been lost.”