Today, we mourn the deaths of 215 children found buried at Kamloops Indian Residential School on Friday, and for many other children, families, and communities who were victims of the residential school system. Grand River Hospital has lowered the flags at both campuses for 215 hours – 9 days – in honour of each life. We also ask all staff to join a moment of silence today at 2:15pm.
The residential school system operated across Canada from the 1880s until the last school closed in 1996. During this period, approximately 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families and placed in residential schools. The purpose was to “kill the Indian in the child” - remove them from the influence of their own culture and assimilate them into European-Canadian culture. Often these children were emotionally, physically and sexually abused. The exact number of children who died because of residential schools is unknown, but is estimated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to be over 4,000 – approximately one in every 50 students.
The Healing of the Seven Generations in Kitchener works to support the Indigenous community suffering from the intergenerational effects of the residential school system. Indigenous team members are encouraged to reach out for support if needed. They are also hosting a vigil and seeking memorial donations.
- Vigil: Monday, May 31 from 5 – 7pm. Click here for details. Attendees are asked to follow COVID-19 safety protocols. There will be a virtual option available.
- Donations of teddy bears, kids’ shoes and orange shirts are requested for a display remembering these children, as well as those still waiting to be found or who will never be found. Click here for more details.
There are other support options available. We encourage you to reach out:
- Indian Residential School Survivors and Family Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419
- Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington Here 24/7: 1-844-437-3247 (local: 519-821-3582)
- GRH Employee and Family Assistance Program: 1-800-663-1142
- GRH Spiritual Care: x2142 or the staff support chat line at 226-752-9233.
The Truth and Reconcilliation of Commission of Canada provides Calls to Action for all people including health focused Calls to Action (#18-24) to move towards reconcilliation. Click here to learn more. One of these steps is to engage in cultural competency training. Understanding the history and challenges supports us to provide culturally safe care to members of our Indigenous community. Here are some educational resources that are free to access:
- Indigenous Canada course – University of Alberta
- Indigenous Relationships and Cultural Safety course – Cancer Care Ontario (relevant to all health care providers, not cancer-specific)