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Pairs of children’s shoes are placed on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery as a memorial to the 215 children whose remains have been found buried at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, in Vancouver, on Friday, May 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

When the the Truth and Reconciliation Commission published their report on Residential Schools in 2012 they titled it “They Came for the Children“. Indeed they did, for an unspeakable evil was exposed recently: the remains of 215 children were found buried on the site of one of Canada’s largest residential schools – unmarked, unknown, unloved.

This news comes weeks before National Indigenous Peoples Day, and further reinforces the monstrous history of Canada’s genocide of First Nations Peoples. There is no soft way to admit it. While Canada pointed fingers at Germany’s Holocaust of Jewish people, China’s purge of its own citizens, or the Soviet Holodomor of the Ukraine, Canada had been slowly and quietly genociding the “inconvenient Indian” from their aboriginal lands almost as soon as it became a nation in 1867.

“Unthinkable Loss”

The Canadian Press reported on May 28 that Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation confirmed that the remains were found with the help of a ground-penetrating radar specialist.

Casimir called the discovery an ‘unthinkable loss that was spoken about but never documented at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.’

‘Given the size of the school, with up to 500 students registered and attending at any one time, we understand that this confirmed loss affects First Nations communities across British Columbia and beyond,’ Casimir said in the release.

The First Nations Health Authority called the discovery of the children’s remains ‘extremely painful” and said in a website posting that it “will have a significant impact on the Tk’emlups community and in the communities served by this residential school.’

“I was shattered”

For Upper Nicola Band Chief Harvey McLeod who attended the school from 1966 to 1968, this is close to home. He recalls speaking with his friends about children who were just gone one day. Chief Mcleod told The Canadian Press:

We talked among ourselves, the boys and I, my friends and I, we talked about it saying they probably ran away and we were happy that they probably got home.”

McLeod said the discovery of the remains brought back memories of his time at the school.

“I was shattered. It just broke me when I heard about it,” he said in an interview. “It’s a secret, or it’s something we knew that may have happened there, but we had no evidence.

Deep and Prayerful Lament

I receive the news with deep and prayerful lament; I renew my commitment to Truth and Reconciliation; and I wait for more burial sites to be discovered – for as the First Nations point out, Recommendations 71 – 76 of the Truth and Reconciliation Report (published in 2015) deal with “Missing Children and Burial Information“. In the six intervening years that have lapsed this is the first gruesome discovery.

For more, see “The Graves were never a secret: Why so many residential school cemeteries remain unmarked.

Imagine: what parent can take the forceful abduction of their child, and then never see them again? Who could conjure up such an atrocity: children sent to residential schools where they would endure abuses of various kinds, only to find them killed by disease, abuse, or neglect, and then thrown in an unmarked mass grave no better than Pol Pot in Cambodia – and so much of it done in the name of Christ!

Truth… meet Reconciliation

For more on the recommendations that came out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission see: “The Long Walk of Doing and Undoing.”


For more on “Canada, Aboriginal Peoples, and Residential Schools”, see the 2012 report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission titled “They came for the Children.”