On May 27, 2021, the buried remains of 215 children, some as young as three years old, were found at the site of the Kamloops Residential School in British Columbia. The school operated as a residential school from 1890 to 1969, which was then turned into a day school until finally closing in 1978. The building still stands, and is located on the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation.

The Waterloo Region District School Board acknowledges that the residential school system was systematically introduced by the Canadian government as a way to destroy Indigenous cultures, languages, families and ways of being. As institutions of education, where children ought to be nurtured, validated and cared for, this recent finding is most appalling.

Flags will be flown at half mast tomorrow morning, Monday, May 31, 2021 to honour the 215 children, their families, survivors, and Indigenous communities across this country whose lives have forever been negatively impacted by the imposition of assimilation tactics including the residential school system. Flags will remain lowered until Wednesday, June 9, the equivalent of 215 hours, to remember these 215 children, as well as all Indigenous children, families, and communities who have been and who still are impacted. The Chairperson of the Board will also be signalling a moment of silence during the Board meeting on Monday, May 31.

June is Indigenous History Month. Residential schools are a dark, tragic and real part of the history of this country we now call Canada, and they continue to impact Indigenous people today. It is essential that we acknowledge what happened, that we remember it, that we speak about it, and that we actively reflect on the roles each of us plays in countering this abhorrent system. Truth must come before reconciliation. Those looking to learn more about the impact of Residential Schools might want to begin by reading the Calls to Action identified by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Please remember that the WRDSB serves many Indigenous students, staff and community members who will be deeply affected by these recent findings.