Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked Sunday that flags at all federal buildings be flown at half-staff to honor more than 200 children whose remains have been found bur*ed at what was once Canada´s largest Indigenous residential school – one of the institutions that held children taken from families acr-oss the nation.
The Peace Tower flag on Parliament Hill in the nation’s capital of Ottawa was among those lowered to half-staff. ‘To honor the 215 children whose lives were taken at the former Kamloops residential school and all Indigenous children who never made it home, the survivors, and their families, I have asked that the Peace Tower and all federal buildings be flown at half-mast,’ Trudeau tweeted.
Mayors of communities across Ontario, including Toronto, Ottawa, Mississauga and Brampton, also ordered flags lowered to honor the children.
Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk´emlups te Secwepemc First Nation in British Columbia said the remains of 215 children, some as young as 3 years old, were confirmed last weekend with the help of ground-penetrating radar. She described the discovery as ‘an unthinkable lo-ss that was sp**en about but never documented at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.´´
From the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 First Nations children were required to attend state-funded Christian schools as part of a program to assimilate them into Canadian society.
They were f*rc-ed to convert to Christianity and not allowed to speak their native languages. Many were b**ten and verbally abused, and up to 6,000 are said to have passes away. The Canadian government apologized in Parliament in 2008 and admitted that physical and s****l a*** in the schools was rampant. Many students recalled being b*ate* for speaking their native languages. They also lo-st touch with their parents and customs.
Indigenous leaders have cit-ed that legacy of a**** and isolation as the root cause of epid-emic rates of al*oh*lism and d*** addi-ction on reservations.
Plans are underway to bring in foren-sics experts to identify and repatriate the remains of the children found !ur**d on the site. The Kamloops school operated between 1890 and 1969, when the federal government took over operations from the Catholic Church and operated it as a day school until it closed in 1978. The National Truth and Reconciliation Commission has records of at least 51 children d!ing at the school between 1915 and 1963.
Perry Bellegarde, chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said while it is not new to find gra-ves at former residential schools, it´s always cr*shi!g to have that chapter´s wounds exp-osed.
The chief of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, R. Stacey LaForme, wrote Trudeau on Saturday to ask the government to lower the flags and declare a national day of mourning. ‘There is a lot more to be done but first and foremost, we need to do this to show love and respect to the 215 children, all of the children, and their families,’ LaForme said in a statement. ‘This should be a moment that the country never forgets.’
Sol Mamakwa, an Indigenous opposition legislator who represents the Ontario riding of Kiiwetinoong, called on the province and Canadian government to work with all First Nations to look for remains at other def-unct residential schools.
‘It is a great open secret that our children l*e on the properties of the former schools – an open secret that Canadians can no longer look away from,’ Mamakwa said. ‘In keeping with the Truth and Reconci-liation Commission´s M!ss*ng Children Projects, every school site must be searched for the gr-av-es of our an*est*rs.’ Toronto Mayor John Tory said city flags would stay lowered for nine days – 215 hours – to represent each life.
‘This sad story is sho*kin! but not surprising to students of history, I don´t think we know yet when these d**** occ-urr-ed,’ said Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto. ‘Canada of yesteryear is not the Canada of today,” he said.