Statement: The Tragedy at Kamloops Residential School

Dear Hart House and U of T Community,

The Hart House Student Literary and Library Committee stands in grief with Indigenous communities and extends our sincerest condolences to all those affected by the shameful and tragic events which took place at Kamloops Indian Residential School and residential schools throughout Turtle Island.  

The announcement by Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation that an unmarked mass grave site with the remains of 215 children was found at the Kamloops Indigenous Residential School in British Columbia serves as a powerful reminder of the unacknowledged past, ongoing injustices, and lack of meaningful actions taken to reconcile in ‘Canada.’ 

Residential Schools operated between the late 1800s to 1996 to forcibly remove over 150,000 Indigenous, Metis, and Inuit children from their communities and assimilate them into White Canadian Society. In residential schools, Indigenous children were forbidden from speaking their native language and practicing their culture. They endured physical and sexual abuse, and were denied adequate living conditions. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee estimates that approximately 3,200 to 6,000 children were killed while attending residential schools due to neglect, abuse, and violence. Those who survived suffer from deep and unspeakable trauma. 

We stand with Indigenous communities to demand accountability, acknowledgement, and action from the Canadian Government and the Catholic Church, which could include but is not limited to:

  • ‘Call of Actions’ listed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in a publicly available document released in 2015. The document details actions in:
  • Legacy of Residential School Survivors include policies to benefit Education, Health, Language and Culture and Justice system for residential school survivors
  • Reconciliation includes, demanding equity in legal systems, including indigenous history and treaties in the Pledge of Allegiance,Renewing or establishing Treaty relationships based on principles of mutual respect etc.

The Hart House Student Literary and Library Committee would also like to amplify the following:

  • As non-Indigenous people residing in Canada, we recognise our position as ‘Settlers,’ aim to acquaint ourselves with all the ‘Calls of Actions’ and promote them through our means.
  • We commit to learning more about the land that we are privileged to live and write on, and we aim to spread more information about the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and the Mississaugas of the Credit River, such as through meaningful ‘Land Acknowledgements.’
  • As a committee focused on the appreciation of literature, we have and will continue to seek Indigenous stories, storytellers, poets and publications.
  • Through our committee, we have and we will continue to create an inclusive environment to listen and learn from Indigenous members of our society through all forms of art.
  • We have and will continue to maintain a rigid anti-discriminatory selection process for all competition based events, publications, and hiring positions.

The tragedy at Kamloops Indian Residential School speaks to the enduring trauma that Indigenous communities experience and how residential schools are not simply a chapter in Canada’s history. Ultimately, we stand with Indian Residential School Survivors Society in calling on the government, social institutions and corporations, and Canadian citizens to recognise the intergenerational effects of residential schools by “supporting research, education, awareness, partnerships, and advocating for justice and healing.”

Sincerely,

The Hart House Student Literary and Library Committee

Mental Health and Trauma Resources

  • Indian Residential School Survivors Society (counseling, support, workshops, and traditional healing): 1-800-721-9966, https://www.irsss.ca/
  • National Indian Residential School Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419
  • KUU-US Crisis Line Society (for those within B.C.): 1-800-588-8717
  • Talk4Healing: 1-855-554-HEAL (4325), https://www.talk4healing.com, Crisis: 1-888-200-9997

Books about Indigenous history and Residential Schools

  • Legacy: Trauma, Story, and Indigenous Healing by Suzanna Methot
  • A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott
  • Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
  • Knock on the Door: The Essential History of Residential Schools by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

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