The discovery of 215 children buried on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. confirms the oral history and the lived experiences of survivors of that residential school. The disturbing and horrifying findings there should surprise no Yukoner or Canadian, as they have been reported before at other residential schools across Canada. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRCC) has conservatively estimated that 4,100 children died at the schools.

The TRCC’s Calls to Action items 71 through 76 relate to discovering the truth about “children and burial information”. Item 75 calls on the federal government to “work with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, churches, Aboriginal communities, former residential school students, and current landowners to develop and implement strategies and procedures for the ongoing identification, documentation, maintenance, commemoration, and protection of residential school cemeteries or other sites at which residential school children were buried. This is to include the provision of appropriate memorial ceremonies and commemorative markers to honour the deceased children.”

A solemn community procession drummed its way from the Sacred Heart Cathedral to Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre on Monday May 31. Yukon Human Rights Commission members joined the circle listening to the drumming as hundreds of pairs of children’s shoes were placed by a sacred fire and Yukon First Nation’s leaders expressed their grief, concern and calls to collective action. The sacred fire would burn for four days and nights.

The Commission joins with all those who mourn the children who suffered and died at government sponsored, church-run Indian Residential Schools here in Yukon and across Canada. We are honoured to have participated in the gathering. Human rights exist to ensure that every individual is allowed to live free and equal in dignity. We must face the truth in order to ensure that every child, from past and future generations matters.” – Yukon Human Rights Commissioners Karen Moir and Michael Dougherty

The Commission urges the government of Canada and the churches involved to fully implement all 94 TRCC Calls to Action, with immediate attention to items 71-76.

The Indian Residential School Survivors Society emergency crisis line can be reached 24/7 at 1-866-925-4419.