Statement from Mayor Helps on the Discovery of the Remains of 215 Children in a Mass Grave at the Kamloops Indian Residential School

Mayor Lisa Helps issued the following statement today about the discovery of the remains of 215 children in a mass grave at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

“Tomorrow, the City of Victoria is lowering the Xe xe Smun eem-Victoria Orange Shirt Day flag and the Canadian flag to half-mast to honour the 215 children who died at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, and whose bodies were recently found in an unmarked grave. We acknowledge the deep grief of families from the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation and families from the other Nations whose children attended the school and who never returned home.

“The flags will remain lowered from May 31 to June 8 for a total of 215 hours, one hour for each of the children who died. Council will also observe a moment of silence at the beginning of its meeting on Thursday.

“The discovery of the children’s bodies is a reminder to non-Indigenous Canadians that the grief and trauma of colonization is anything but in the past. These children’s bodies surfaced in the present and are a painful reminder to all residential school survivors and intergenerational survivors of their own pain, trauma, and need for healing.

“Taking meaningful action to address the ongoing, harmful legacy of colonialism requires more than symbolic gestures like the lowering of flags. It requires all non-Indigenous people and all levels of government to take action to recognize and honour Indigenous sovereignty, Indigenous laws, and Indigenous ways of knowing. The discovery of the children’s bodies should move us all to redouble our reconciliation efforts in real and meaningful ways.

“To close with the words of Eddy Charlie, residential school survivor and founder of Orange Shirt Day in Victoria, “We all have work. Our old ones used to say, never think a path is perfect. The challenge is to stay standing together on that path. That goodness is all we need.”