Loss of Indigenous Lives a Reminder of Painful Past
St. Jerome’s University mourns the loss of lives connected to the recent discovery of 215 children buried at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, located on the traditional territory of th Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in British Columbia. It serves as a painful reminder of a time when the Catholic Church was involved in the administration of residential schools. St. Jerome’s University condemns the impact these schools had, and continues to have, on the lives of the Indigenous communities.
“The news Friday that the remains of at least 215 children had been detected on the grounds of the Kamloops Residential School was both shocking and sadly to be expected. First Nations have been saying that probably thousands more children died while residential schools were in operation,” stated St. Jerome’s University’s President and Vice Chancellor, Peter Meehan.
“For Indigenous peoples across Canada, this will present yet another obstacle to achieving the acknowledgement, reconciliation, and healing they need and deserve after enduring centuries of colonial oppression. That the church has been complicitous in some of these atrocities is an even more egregious aspect of this history, for which it will need to continue to atone.”
The 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) identified that large numbers of Indigenous children who were sent to residential schools never returned to their home communities. Some children ran away and others died at the schools. To date the Missing Children Project has identified the deaths and the burial places of 4,100 children who died while attending the schools. The TRC calls for the federal government to provide sustainable funding for existing and new Indigenous healing centres to address the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual harms caused by residential schools.
“This is difficult and complex work that requires acknowledgement of responsibility for the past that is meaningful, culturally sensitive, and that honours all those impacted,” added Meehan. “It is also an opportunity to educate future generations on the important historical significance and impact of the Residential Schools, and on the role that the Canadian government, the Catholic church, and other churches had in administering these schools. St. Jerome’s University will do whatever is possible to support reconciliation and to help those healing from this reprehensible past.”
The flags on St. Jerome’s University’s campus will be flying at half-mast for 215 hours, to honour the memory of the children lost.