Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the 215 children found at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. It is impossible to comprehend this tragedy and yet Indigenous people have known this reality and others and they have been ignored. This news is a stark reminder of the violence inflicted by the residential school system and the wounds and trauma carried by communities, families, and survivors into the present. From 1831 until the last Indian residential school closed in 1996, over 150,000 children between the ages of 4-16 were forcibly separated from their families. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada concluded that residential schools were a "systematic, government-sponsored attempt to destroy Aboriginal cultures and languages".
The intergenerational harm and trauma of residential schools is not only a part of our history, it is ongoing. Anti-Indigenous racism continues to exist today in countless forms. Indigenous people have been aware of the children who were hurt and died at residential schools and as a society, we haven't listened. We need to listen now.
As a school and a community JICS strives to instill the values of a just society, one that honours and respects all people. We join the call for Canadians to implement all 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The work of the JICS Natural Curiosity Program is a reaction to the TRC calls to action. We are committed to supporting public school educators and students with learning about the true history of our country but also about the importance of knowing and benefiting from Indigenous perspectives and understandings. We will continue to work with Indigenous members of our community to ensure we are doing all that we can in a good way.
We must join together to acknowledge and mourn, and yet this alone is not enough. We must also bring about action, education, and justice. We ask that all JICS parents and faculty read or reread the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report and continue to educate themselves about anti-Indigenous racism by consulting Indigenous voices. "Our leaders must not fear this onus of reconciliation. The burden is not theirs to bear alone; rather, reconciliation is a process that involves all parties." Justice Murray Sinclair, TRC Chair. Dr. Cindy Blackstock, member of the Gitxsan First Nation, Associate Professor at the University of Alberta, and Executive Director of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, talks about accountability for residential schools and ending discrimination in this CBC interview: What could accountability for residential schools look like? Dr. Blackstock and The Caring Society invite participation in a social movement to make a difference in the lives of First Nations children and their families. They offer these seven campaigns to meaningfully help address disadvantages and promote culturally-based equity for Indigenous children, 7-Free Ways to Make a Difference [link no longer active].