May 31, 2021
Confirmation of children’s remains at residential school site an unthinkable loss
Late last week we learned that the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation found the remains of 215 children, with some as young as three-years-old, on the site of what used to be Canada’s largest residential school near Kamloops, British Columbia
This confirmation of the loss experienced by Indigenous families is a stark reminder of colonial violence, including that experienced by Indigenous children through the Indian Residential School system, and refocuses us as public health researchers on the ongoing, contemporary impact of colonialism on Indigenous people in Canada.
For generations Indigenous families and communities have known about and experienced these losses, and we acknowledge the renewed pain and suffering that the discovery has caused.
The O’Brien Institute for Public Health echoes the sentiment from Michael Hart, UCalgary Vice-Provost (Indigenous Engagement), and Elder-in-Residence Reg Crowshoe that we must never forget the children lost, and take and create opportunities to enact transformation within ourselves individually, our units, and our institution.
Let us take this opportunity to listen, learn and act.
Dr. Pamela Roach, director, Indigenous Health Education within the Indigenous, Local and Global Health Office, Cumming School of Medicine, has compiled the following list of resources and organizations to learn from and engage with:
- Learn about the residential schools that operated where you live, or grew up.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
- Read the final report, and the calls to action. Familiarize yourself with the calls to action that apply to you.
- Information on colonization and genocide as a root cause of violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people.
- Learn more about the role of medical education on Indigenous Health.
- Learn more about how anti-Indigenous racism persists today.
- Learn more about community-based Indigenous-directed healing initiatives.
Dr. Tom Stelfox, MD, PhD, O'Brien Institute Scientific Director
Dr. Christine Friedenreich, PhD, O'Brien Institute Associate Scientific Director
Dr. Jamie Day, PhD, O'Brien Institute Administrative Director
Dr. Aliya Kassam, PhD, Lead, O'Brien Institute Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Portfolio
The following resources are available for anyone struggling:
The First Nations Health Authority operates a 24-hour National Indian Residential School Crisis Line to provide support for former students and those affected. Emotional and crisis referral services are available in English and French by calling 1-866-925-4419.
The Indian Residential School Survivors Society can be contacted by calling 1-800-721-0066.