On behalf of the staff and board of The Federation of Community Social Services of BC, we want to extend our love and support to the families, communities, and Elders who are hurting as a result of the discovery last week in Kamloops and continue to suffer the ongoing effects of Canada’s Residential School System.
The Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc First Nation confirmed findings of 215 children buried on the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. We are standing with those who are grieving and reliving the trauma experienced by residential school survivors, families, and communities.
At the same time, we are reminding ourselves, our loved ones, and those we work with that this is not just a dark chapter of our country’s history. The last residential school in Canada only closed in 1996—well within the living memory for most of us—and the racism and colonialism that allowed the residential school system to thrive still exists today.
So while we stand in support and acknowledgement of our First Nations, Métis, Inuit and Urban Indigenous friends and colleagues, we are also reflecting on the ways they have been harmed and the ways they continue to be harmed—by residential schools, through intergenerational trauma, through the racism they experience when seeking health care, by discriminatory policing, and by systemic barriers built into child protection systems, the justice system, the education system, and more.
And we are renewing our commitment, as an organization and as individuals, to take personal responsibility for truth and reconciliation, to make sure our words translate into actions, and to use the power and privilege we have to drive change and decolonize those systems to which we are connected.
We pledge to re-read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action, to encourage Federation members to do so and to continue to support their full implementation. We will continue to seek every opportunity to amplify Indigenous voices and raise the profile of urban Indigenous and Métis communities. We pledge to say no to initiatives and proposals that conflict with our commitment to supporting Indigenous communities and their efforts to provide social services to their community members.
We do this in memory of the 215 children, those who have yet to be found, and in honour of the survivors and Elders who will be holding space for their families and communities over the coming weeks.
Tanya Behardien, President
Rick FitzZaland, Executive Director
The Federation of Community Social Services of BC
Support Resources Available
We encourage survivors and families in urban Indigenous communities to reach out to their local Friendship Centre community for support. Our colleagues at the BCAAFC will be holding a ceremony in honour of survivors at their next annual general meeting.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line provides 24-hour support for former students and those affected, including referrals to emotional and crisis services. Call 1-866-925-4419.
The First Nations Health Authority Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program provides mental health and emotional support to eligible former Indian Residential School students and their families.
Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society: 1-800-721-0066
What You Can Do
Read the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action. Calls to Action 71 through to 76 specifically focus on missing children and information about their burials. Others speak to Child Welfare, Education, Health, Justice and Business. Support and encourage their full implementation.
Contact your federal MP and tell them that Ottawa shouldn’t be fighting First Nations kids in court.