While Canada remains under shock following the discovery last week of 215 children buried near a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia, indigenous groups are demanding more answers and actions from the Government.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has ordered Sunday that the national flag is to fly at half-mast. It is the beginning, but it is far from the end. For starters, the remains need to be identified.
To honour 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 flag and flags on all federal buildings be flown at half-mast, Trudeau tweeted.
Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announced last week they had found the remains of 215 children, some as young as three years old, buried at the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, once Canada's largest such school.
Following the discovery, Kamloops residents and First Nations people have been gathering to listen to drummers and singers at a memorial in front of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. Between 1831 and 1996, Canada's residential school system forcibly separated children from their families, subjecting them to abuse, malnutrition and rape in what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission tasked with investigating the system called cultural genocide in 2015.
Last week's discovery sparked outrage and people laid hundreds of tiny shoes in public squares, places of government and on the steps of Christian churches which were in charge of running such schools. There have long been rumours within indigenous communities of children buried at these schools and the commission studying the genocide case has produced a report titled 'Missing Children and Unmarked Burials,' which speaks of 3,200 children who died at residential schools, about a third of whom were nameless.
The working group investigating these cases is very much in need of funding, which the government has been reluctant to hand out. But after last week's event, there are renewed calls for Canada to do more to uncover what happened. In meetings across the country, indigenous communities are working to figure out how to investigate, said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs.
It's essential that there be a national program to thoroughly investigate all residential school sites regarding unmarked mass graves, he said.