We are deeply saddened by the news that again, unmarked graves have been found at the site of a former residential school in Canada. The remains of 751 people, mainly Indigenous children, have been identified at the site of Marieval Residential School in Saskatchewan. This is an ongoing reminder of the devastating legacy of residential schools in our country, and highlights our need to continue to address the ongoing trauma that Indigenous students, families, staff and communities face.
This discovery comes closely after the news of the discovery of 215 graves at the site of the Kamloops Residential School. We are mindful that there will be more discoveries like this in the near future as the grounds of other residential schools are examined across the country.
Residential schools were schools in name only. They were not designed to teach and build up individuals; they were intended to destroy cultures, communities and identities in an effort to gain access to the land and end crown responsibilities to First Nations. As Duncan Campbell Scott, deputy superintendent of Indian Affairs said in 1920, “Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department.”
Residential schooling was a conscious colonial effort to rob Indigenous people of their humanity, and in this case of their human dignity at the end of life. While as a school board our Director’s Action Plan commits us to understand the impact of colonialism and its legacies of racism and sometimes genocidal oppression of identifiable members of the human family, this is a particularly horrific example of the ongoing impact of colonialism on Indigenous communities.
It is recommended that all Canadians read both the Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a way to see a path forward in acknowledging the rights of Indigenous Peoples and the roles of settlers on Indigenous land. It reminds us of the need to identify and disrupt the colonial narratives and practices in the education system that continue to harm Indigenous students and staff in our schools.
We also encourage you to read Canada’s Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials. Part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report, this document outlines the heartbreaking context, trauma and importance of locating these unmarked graves.
It is important we continue to reach out and support each other and our communities in times of tragedy. We are devastated and have heavy hearts and are committed to moving forward as a school board in a better way with Indigenous people. This work includes providing ongoing training to all staff and providing academic, culturally relevant and well-being support for all Indigneous students.
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.
Welcome to the Hope for Wellness Helpline – Online 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
Anishnawbe Health Toronto's crisis line 416-891-8606
Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868.
Cynthia Cordova, Chair
Louise Sirisko, Director