Governments and organizations across Canada taking steps to recognize Tk'emlups discovery

Casimir: 'I was speechless'

The announcement that the remains of 215 children were found buried near the Kamloops residential school has prompted a wide-reaching response, with governments and organizations across Canada taking steps to honour and recognize the Tk’emlups discovery.

When asked what she thought about the discovery becoming international news, Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir told Castanet Kamloops she wasn't sure what to expect before news of the find became public.

“In the beginning, it was a shock to the leadership here, it was a shock to have to share this with our membership before it became national news,” Casimir said.

“We knew that we would have to do outreach to our nation chiefs, we also knew that we all had to do outreach to all the chiefs throughout B.C., and in the Yukon, and we know that some members also came from Alberta, as well, to our residential school. So this has been very much a shock.”

Casimir said she felt disturbed, upset and hurt when the discovery was first brought to light.

“I was horrified, I was hurt, I was distraught, I was speechless," she said.

"I was going back to the place of, you know, I’m a mother, and what if that was my child. I do know that was a relative's child, one of my relations from generations past.”

On Friday, over 400 people gathered at the powwow grounds on Tk’emlups te Secwepemc band lands to honour children’s lives lost as the result of the residential school system, and to begin a community healing process.

Flags at municipal and school district buildings have been flown at half-mast in Kamloops, and in other cities across the country to honour the 215 children whose lives were lost.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced all flags at federal buildings in Canada would fly at half-mast until further notice.

Along the U.S.-Canada border in Ontario, Niagara Falls is being lit up in orange nightly. The Toronto Transit Commission is also pausing service at 2:15 p.m. on Tuesday for a moment of silence.

In Calgary, Mayor Naheed Nenshi called on the Calgary Catholic school board to rename two schools named for historical figures prominent in Canada’s residential school system. In Charlottetown, a John A. MacDonald statue is being moved in the wake of the Tk'emlups discovery.

And in B.C., discussion about the discovery took up about half an hour in the legislature on Monday.

The Vancouver Canucks also announced Monday that Rogers Arena would be lit up orange to honour the Tk’emlups discovery.

The B.C. Teachers Federation implored its members Monday to wear orange for the entire week.

And B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry took a moment on Monday to address the discovery ahead of her regular COVID-19 briefing.

“I struggle to find words to express my horror and grief at the discovery of these remains,” she said.

“I realize it’s because there are no words that can do justice to those children, and the countless others who died alone and scared. There are no words that can make right a system designed to extinguish and assimilate Indigenous peoples.”

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