Statement by Chief Commissioner on the Discovery of the Remains of 215 Indigenous Children at Residential School Site in KamloopsJune 1, 2021
The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, Indigenous communities throughout Canada, residential school survivors, their families and communities are mourning the loss of 215 children whose remains were recently found on the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission joins all those who mourn this deeply upsetting and profoundly saddening loss.
This discovery is a stark reminder of the destructive legacy of Canada’s residential school system. The individual and communal harm inflicted by residential schools is not confined to dark corners of the past. It is a national shame that continues to affect families, workplaces, and communities across the country through direct and intergenerational trauma.
Everyone in Canada must learn the unvarnished truth about what happened in residential schools. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission stressed the importance of such education – recognizing the role of education in creating understanding about this painful chapter in our country’s history, and the role it must play in addressing the historical and present injustices Indigenous people face.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission also called on governments, institutions, organizations, and individuals to act. In its final report – Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future – several of the Calls to Action addressed the tragedy of missing children, unmarked graves, and residential school cemeteries. These calls included the completion of a national student death register, the updating of records on the deaths of Indigenous children, and the creation of an online registry of residential school cemeteries with maps to indicate the location of deceased residential school children.
As members of one human family, we must heed these calls. We must act. Meaningful reconciliation in Saskatchewan requires research into undocumented deaths and burials at residential schools in our province. It requires teaching our children the truths of our shared history. And it requires working together so that we can heal relationships and build a more harmonious, understanding, and inclusive society.
David M. Arnot, Chief Commissioner
Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission