Open Letter From HPCAS – Kamloops Memorial
May 31, 2021
To the Members of Huron and Perth Counties,
Many of us were truly shocked last Thursday to learn of the discovery of the remains of 215 children at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. Sadly, those of us who have been following the Indigenous Canada course are not surprised. Canada’s residential school system did more than “kill the Indian in the Child” – it also killed the children themselves.
In 1907 Dr. Peter Bryce visited 35 residential schools in western Canada where he discovered that children were dying in large numbers from tuberculosis due to lack of ventilation and overcrowding. At one school, Old Sun Residential School, 75% of the children who attended died at the school or shortly after discharge. The actual death rate across the schools was calculated to be 42%. Of 100 children who entered through the doors of residential schools, only 58 would survive. Dr. Bryce’s findings were ignored by the Canadian governments at the time. Dr. Bryce was so upset by his findings that he published the findings himself in his book “The Story of a National Crime.”
Over the next nine days (215 hours) the agency will by flying flags at half-mast as a sign of mourning and respect for these murdered children. There are several local events in which we can also express our grief for the residential school children who did not survive. In Stratford there a Facebook live-streamed vigil will be held on Friday at 8:00 p.m. sponsored by the multi-cultural association. All of us are encouraged to place a teddy bear outside our home at 6:00 p.m. and to leave the front porch light on. I am sure that many more events will be advertised on social media in the coming days.
There are likely thousands of indigenous children lying in unmarked graves across Canada at the sites of former residential schools. The graves at Kamloops serve to remind us all of the imperative of reconciliation.