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Department of Health and Society Statement on the Discovery of Remains of 215 Children at Kamloops Indian Residential School

June 9, 2021

In light of the discovery of 215 Indigenous children buried in an unmarked grave on the site of the Kamloops Residential School on Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation land, the Department of Health and Society offers condolences and support to those affected by this news.

This discovery, though horrific, should not come as a surprise. Survivors of Residential Schools and their communities have known of these crimes, and others, for decades. Many survivors testified to these crimes publicly before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission between 2008 – 2015. Despite these courageous testimonies, it has taken this heartbreaking discovery for these crimes to be taken seriously in the public eye and for these lost lives to be recognized. We grieve the loss of these lives and the families and communities devastated by these deaths.

The Department of Health and Society condemns any discriminatory, racist or violent treatment of Indigenous people. This includes attempts to erase or minimize crimes perpetrated against Indigenous people by the Canadian government and its agencies, including religious organizations, both historically and in the present day. We recognize that colonialism is a contemporary state of affairs in Canada and that it exacts an ongoing toll on Indigenous people on this land. We are firmly committed to listening to – and believing – Indigenous people’s accounts of colonialism, racism, and discrimination.

There are many resources available about Residential Schools, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the ongoing effects of continued colonial violence in Canada. The Reports of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, along with several related, historical reports are available at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Centre website. U of T has developed a library guide containing resources about the Truth and Reconciliation and the UTSC library has prepared an Indigenous Book Club library guide.  The University of Toronto’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Answering the Call: Wecheehetowin, lays out the concrete steps the University will take to address the calls to action set out in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. An annual report on the University’s progress is also available, and more information can be found on the website for the Office of Indigenous Initiatives. You may also be interested in reading U of T President Meric Gertler’s statement regarding the discovery in Kamloops. To learn more about traditional lands and territories, treaties, languages, and more, visit https://native-land.ca/.

As a department, the calls to action outlined in Answering the Call: Wecheehetowin serve as our guide, but there are many additional steps our department can take, including learning more about how to decolonize our curriculum and course syllabi. We remain committed to working toward justice in our pedagogy and research and we pledge our ongoing support to those who engaged in the fight against colonial violence.

Resources are available for Indigenous students, staff, and faculty who need additional support in the wake of the recent discovery at the site of the Kamloops Residential School. At UTSC, support is available through the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Office. Indigenous students can also contact  Indigenous Student Services for additional support. Staff, faculty, and students can also consult this list of supports, developed by the Centre for Indigenous Studies at the University of Toronto. First Nations House is the central hub at U of T offering culturally relevant services for Indigenous students. For immediate support, National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available by calling 1-866 925-4419.