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News Release

Chiefs of Ontario

Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald issued the following statement in mourning of the victims at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School:

“The discovery of 215 innocent children buried in a mass grave on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School announced late last week has triggered past trauma and opened old wounds for many of our people, and confirmed what we already know of the atrocities and crimes committed against Indigenous peoples across Canada. As more of these sites continue to be discovered, we must walk together comforted by the knowledge that we are not alone in our journey. Our collective strength will be guided by the love and spirit of our ancestors, including all those innocent children who died in residential schools across Canada.”

Between the late 1830s and 1996, more than 130 schools operated across Canada. It is estimated more than 150,000 children attended these residential schools. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 4,100 children who died of diseases or accidents while at the schools, but many believe the total is likely higher. Estimates of children who went missing from the schools are as high as 6,000. 

“I express my gratitude to the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Language and Cultural Department, Chief Rosanne Casimir, her Council and Knowledge Keepers from Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc community, for their commitment to search the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, and thank those such as the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations who have already committed to taking action.

This was not just a “dark chapter” in Canadian history. This is genocide against Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island. The Government of Canada must accept its failings and be held accountable for the injustices against First Nations children and families. Today, I am calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Doug Ford to support the efforts of identifying the unmarked graves on the grounds of residential schools within Ontario and across Canada, keeping with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Missing Children Projects, where every school site must be searched for the graves of our ancestors.

For us to move forward on the path to partnership and shared reconciliation, we must address the legacy of the residential school system and take concrete steps toward full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations. While this will not undo the pain and harm caused to our communities, it will be a step in the right direction to restore trust.

I fully support the call for a National Day of Mourning and Prayer for the 215 children lost in Kamloops and the many more who endured pain, loss and tragedy while attending residential schools, along with ensuring proper memorials are to be built across Canada in honour. 

I would like to express my deepest gratitude for the outpour of support, community-led memorials and sacred fires which have been lit across the country to honour the children we have lost and those who remain unfound. As we move through this difficult time, we must acknowledge that the pain and grief are essential parts of the healing process. Let’s extend a deep and abiding love and care for one another, knowing that we are not alone in our journey.

On behalf of the Chiefs of Ontario, I encourage all Canadians to participate in one of the many virtual gatherings to honour these children and listen to those who are coming forward with their stories of pain and loss due to the residential school system.

For those who need support, please contact:

National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.

Hope for Wellness 1-855-242-3310 or connect to the online chat at www.hopeforwellness.ca.

Ninanaskamon!

Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald 

About the Chiefs of Ontario

The Chiefs of Ontario is a political forum and a secretariat for collective decision-making, action, and advocacy for the 133 First Nation communities located within the boundaries of the province of Ontario, Canada. Follow Chiefs of Ontario on Facebook or Twitter @ChiefsOfOntario. 

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