"For many of us, news of the discovery of the remains of 215 children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School is still sinking in. Though we may have been aware of the legacy of Canada’s residential schools at an intellectual level, the finding of an unmarked mass grave is a staggering emotional weight.
And yet for those of us who are not of Indigenous descent, we should be mindful of the trauma that the survivors and family members are now reliving. I still believe Canada is a country of promise and hope, but it’s a painful truth that for many Indigenous people, their experience of our country is one of unimaginable horror.
"It can be tempting to view residential schools as a long gone chapter of our past or a problem for the church. The real history, both officially documented and spoken, is much more recent and includes government policy and actions.
"Indian agents in Alberta withheld food rations when families refused to turn their children over to the schools, and the RCMP forcibly took truant and reluctant children from their communities. The violence inflicted at the schools created trauma that will carry through generations. Survivors and their immediate families still live today - the last residential school closed in the mid-1990s - and even now, Indigenous children are vastly overrepresented in Canada’s child welfare systems.
"Beaumont’s heritage is inextricably tied to this reality. The name of Bishop Vital Grandin, an architect and supporter of Canada’s residential school system, is reflected in our neighbourhoods and historical buildings. This will lead to uncomfortable conversations, but they are long overdue and we should approach them with open hearts and minds.
"So we can truly come to grips with the scale of this legacy and for families to honour the lost children, I call upon the Government of Canada to adopt the recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to fund the search of other potential burial sites throughout the country. I also call upon the Government of Alberta to puts its proposed curriculum on hold and engage in meaningful consultation and collaboration with Indigenous peoples.
"On behalf of Beaumont City Council and the people of our community, my heart goes to the people of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation. To honour the lives of the 215 children from the Kamloops residential school and other Indigenous children from across Canada, the city has lowered its flags to half-mast."