Kingston mourns Kamloops residential school victims

The Kingston area has joined in mourning the untimely deaths of the 215 Indigenous children found in a mass grave at a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia.

The grim discovery was made last week after the Tk’emlups te Secweepemc First Nation began work to locate the children’s remains about 20 years ago. The Kamloops Indian Residential School was one of more than 130 institutions throughout Canada which operated from the 1870s until the last one closed in 1996. Thousands of children – some estimates as high as 6000 – went missing after having been separated from their families and taken to residential schools. To date, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has identified the names of, or information about, more than 4,100 children who died of disease or accident while attending a residential school. Unmarked burial sites have been found at several other former residential schools, including in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario.

On Monday morning, a memorial comprised of dozens of children’s shoes and other items had been created on Kingston City Hall’s steps.

“Please join in at City Hall through out the day today to honour our children,” said the Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre at Queen’s University on Monday, May 31. “Please bring children’s shoes or moccasins to place on the steps of City Hall. If you do not have shoes, please bring your medicines, wear orange, and participate in a way that is meaningful to you.”

The Centre invited residents to visit throughout the day, with a moment of silence to take place this afternoon at 2:15 PM. “Please respect COVID-19 protocols and ensure that you are social distancing and that no more than 5-10 people are gathered at a time,” said the Centre.
“The hope is that this can be a way to honour our loved ones and create a space for healing and community.”

City of Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson directed that flags be flown at half-mast at City buildings.

Local school boards, too, lowered their flags in commemoration. “Following consultation with some Indigenous community members, flags across LDSB will be flown at half-mast in memory of the 215 children killed as a result of cultural genocide at a residential school in B.C.,” said the Limestone District School Board. The school board said that its flags would remain lowered for 215 hours (9 days), “one hour for each child whose life was taken – from May 31 to June 8, 2021.”

“In honour of the 215 children whose lives were so tragically taken at the Kamloops residential school, and all survivors, families, and communities being impacted by this heartbreaking news, flags at ALCDSB sites will be lowered to half mast this week,” also said the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board in a statement on Sunday, May 30.

A National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is now available to those affected by the residential school system. Emotional and crisis referral services have been made available through this 24-hour phone line, which is dedicated to supporting former residential school students as well as all those who have been affected. To access the National Crisis Line, please call 1-866-925-4419.

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