Over the weekend, we were heartbroken to see the news of the discovery of a mass grave of 215 children at the former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia. This is a devastating reminder of not only the tragic legacy of residential schools in our country, but our need to continue to address the ongoing trauma that Indigenous students, families, staff and communities face. Our Director’s Action Plan commits us to interrogate the ongoing impact of colonialism, and Residential Schools were a dehumanizing embodiment of the Canadian colonial project. As a school board we are charged with caring for children, and it is heart wrenching to find out that these 215 children were discarded in such an undignified manner. News of violence and tragedy like this can leave us with feelings of shock, fear, anger and grief. This is particularly difficult for us as Canadians as we reflect on the ongoing effects of colonialism as demonstrated through the reports of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.
A tragedy like this one weighs heavy on our collective national conscience and calls on all of us to address the continuing violations of Indigenous rights and treaties. We see the need to honour First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples as it is through their generosity that we are able to share in this land.
Our focus in the coming days will be on supporting students and their families affected by the news of this national tragedy. There are resources available on our website to support families in speaking with their children, and I encourage you all to lean on one another for support during this difficult time.
In addition, if you or someone you know is directly affected by this event, Victim Services of York Region (VSYR) is available at 905-953-5363 or toll free at 1-866-876-5423, extension 6790 to provide support. You can also reach out to 310 - COPE at 1-888-695-0070.
National Indian Residential School Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419 | This line has been set up to provide support, including emotional and crisis referral, for former Residential School students.
Anishnawbe Health Toronto's crisis line 416-891-8606
Welcome to the Hope for Wellness Helpline – On-Line Chat Counseling Service. Call the toll-free Helpline at 1-855-242-3310, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or chat online
The Hope for Wellness Helpline offers immediate mental health counselling and crisis intervention to all Indigenous peoples across Canada. Phone and chat counselling is available in English and French. On request, phone counselling is also available in: Cree, Ojibway, Inuktitut
Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868.
An online vigil has been planned by Indigenous staff and community for this coming Friday, June 4th at 3:00pm. All staff and students are welcome to attend the memorial which will be live streamed.
Please register for the Online 215Vigil here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6805978490799240972
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
For detailed information about the webinar registration process please visit theElectronic Meeting Resources page on the Board website.
As a sign of respect for the victims and this national tragedy, flags have been lowered at all York Region District School Board schools and workplaces for 215 hours.
Cynthia Cordova Louise Sirisko
Board Chair Director of Education