This past week, I was shaken to learn about the remains of 215 children at a former Kamloops residential school, on Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation– part of the thousands who perished while in schools across Canada. Like many of you, the knowledge has stayed with me every day since, as I think about the young lives who did not return home and whose families lost a piece of their hearts forever. I think of the lasting scars that residential schools have left in the community. And I think about my role as a settler in these truths, and in a shared future for the country.
The discovery of these young bodies has been a shock to many, and for others, it has re-opened dark wounds and memories—we must listen to the people of this land and truly hear their stories. The discomfort that I may feel as a settler pales in comparison to the overwhelming grief felt in Indigenous communities across our country.
I have been humbled and moved by the graciousness, generosity, and hope that the Elders have shown to us through our own journey toward reconciliation, as we continue to open our eyes to a shared history that caused deep hurt and profound trauma to generations of people. I am deeply grateful for the wisdom that has been shared so freely with us, and how it has changed my own perspectives and views.
There is power in knowledge, and we cannot have reconciliation without first recognizing the truth. Read The Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action and The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Support Indigenous-led organizations and businesses in the community. June is Indigenous History Month and there is an opportunity before us to do the work required.
United Way supports the call from the United Nations Human Rights Office to the Government of Canada to “conduct prompt, exhaustive investigations for residential school victims.” We are focused on our Indigenous Strategy work and are committed to amplifying the stories of survivors.
I hope to see a groundswell of support for Indigenous communities across Canada. I hope that we can care about the wellbeing of all children, regardless of their race. I hope that we commit to a different future for the whole community, so that everyone can thrive. And I hope you’ll join me.
President and CEO, United Way of Calgary and Area
If you, or someone you know, is feeling the effects of intergenerational trauma, please know that there are supports available including:
Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419)
Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary
Elbow River Healing Lodge
Native Counselling Services
Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society – 403-531-1976 (crisis line)
Metis Calgary Family Services