'We are all implicated in this tragedy,' B.C.'s top doctor says of unmarked graves at Kamloops residential school | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'We are all implicated in this tragedy,' B.C.'s top doctor says of unmarked graves at Kamloops residential school

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Province of B.C.

B.C.'s top doctor called for justice and renewed commitment to reconciliation, in the wake of the mass grave discovery at the former Kamloops Residential School.

"I struggled to find words to express my horror, and grief at the discovery of these remains of 215 First Nations children," provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said today, May 31.

"I realized it's because there are no words that can do justice to those children, and the countless others who died alone and scared, far from home, far from the families who loved them."

Calling the residential school system, "a deliberate and intentional system that was designed to assimilate and extinguish in the Indigenous peoples" Dr. Henry said the revelations from May 27 should act as a call to action.

"I don't offer words, but rather my renewed commitment to actions that arrest and disrupt our deeply rooted ideologies of settler supremacy," she said.

"We must make no mistake, that while these deaths happened in the past, our systems and laws continue to perpetuate racism and discrimination that hurts indigenous peoples in countless ways."

Dr. Henry said it's incumbent on her and others to learn about reconciliation and decolonization.

"I am so grateful to the First Nations and Metis leaders who continue to share their wisdom with me as I personally work to deepen my understanding of reconciliation, and the ways in which I can work to advance it," she said.

"This is hard work that requires us as leaders and settlers in our systems to find the courage to accept that this is our history of colonization."

It's not something that happened to First Nations children and families, she said.

"This is something we did to First Nations children and families. We are all implicated in this tragedy," she said.

"In order to honour the strength and resilience of survivors and descendants of Indian residential schools, and the memories of all those who never returned home. Each and every one of us needs to ask ourselves, what meaningful actions can we take to uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples."

Recommendations in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act can act as a guide in the ongoing process of reconciliation.

The provincial government passed the legislation in November 2019 to implement the UN Declaration, which the Truth and Reconciliation Commission confirms as the framework for reconciliation.

The B.C. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act aims to create a path forward that respects the human rights of Indigenous peoples while introducing better transparency and predictability with decision-making between Indigenous governments and the Province on matters that impact their citizens.

"We cannot get stuck in our shame, and grief, but rather commit to ourselves to one another and to First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples that we will deliberately and intentionally take actions that will serve to heal, rather than harm," she said.

Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation said the remains of 215 children, some as young as three years old, were confirmed last weekend with the help of ground-penetrating radar.


She described the discovery as "an unthinkable loss that was spoken about but never documented" at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

Since then waves of grief and frustration have washed across the country, and gestures of support have followed.

Governments of all levels have started to fly their flags at half-mast. Schools across the province have done the same thing and teachers showed up to work today wearing orange, a sign of solidarity with Indigenous Communities.

Both BC Place and Canada Place will light up orange tonight, also.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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