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Tina Stevens’ Statement on Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc

Published June 02, 2021

Tina Stevens

This post contains details some readers may find distressing. A 24-hour National Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. The number is 1-866-925-4419.

For the past number of days, many Indigenous communities have paused to express their condolences during this devastating time for the First Nations community in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc territory and across this land.

A great deal of shock and sadness has been experienced by the recent release of the reports of the discovery of the remains of 215 children.  These were children, some as young as three, who attended the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. The sharing of this information reminds us again of the dark and horrific legacy of residential schools.

Over 130 residential schools were built across Canada and operated between 1831 until 1996. The Kamloops Indian Residential School was one of the largest residential schools and operated from 1893 to 1978. It was opened and run by the Catholic Church until the federal government took it over in the late 1960s.

Past wounds of indescribable and shocking horrors have been re-opened around the acts that took place within the walls and grounds of these colonial institutions. This was, and is, genocide. We cannot call it by any other name.  Children were forcibly taken from the arms of their families and then began the painful process of the removal of their names, culture and language, and now, the consequences of these atrocities continue to this day. Each child has been forever taken from a family and a community that loved them.

This is a tragedy of unimaginable proportion. Their lives, their families and their communities have been impacted for time immemorial because of the colour of their skin. Where is the justice?

The historical oppression passed through intergenerational trauma caused by residential schools continues to have heartbreaking and devastating impacts on First Nation communities.

We must act now and not further delay justice for these 215 children, their loved ones, their communities and all survivors of residential schools.

Now is the time for the implementation of recommendations by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Now is the time for the implementation of recommendations by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous, Women, Girls, and 2-Spirit People.

Now is the time for governments to mark September 30 as a national day for Truth and Reconciliation. This date is already widely recognized as Orange T-Shirt Day amongst Indigenous Communities across Canada. Orange T-Shirt Day witnesses and honours the healing journey of residential school survivors and their families while committing to the ongoing process of reconciliation.

We stand with our Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc brothers, sisters and non-binary siblings.

We also grieve the children who are still missing.

We invite co-op members to draw attention to this national incident by honouring and showing your grief, love and acknowledgement of all children lost in Residential Schools by placing children’s shoes on your doorstep or by putting a hand drawn sign in your window.

Tina Stevens is the President of the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada and serves as the Director of Indigenous Communities on the Board of Directors. She is a member of the London Inter-Tribal Housing Co-operative in London, Ontario.

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