The former Kamloops Indian Residential School is seen on Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops, B.C. on Thursday, May 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Snucins

The former Kamloops Indian Residential School is seen on Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops, B.C. on Thursday, May 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Snucins

B.C. teacher says students could be triggered by residential school discovery

Support needed as sadness in younger generations turning to anger, says youth mentor

A First Nations teacher says the discovery of the remains of 215 children buried at the site of a former residential school in British Columbia is a triggering event for students who regularly learn about the history of wrongs against Indigenous people.

Rick Joe said a provincewide kindergarten-to-Grade 12 curriculum includes lessons on everything from respect for First Nations culture to the legacy of residential schools and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, so students hearing about the remains found last week in Kamloops will need support.

“This is very triggering. I have been asking for our school counsellors, for administrators and for youth care workers to take that extra time to check in on the Indigenous members,” he said Sunday.

Joe is particularly concerned about First Nations foster children who are overrepresented in the child welfare system and include those whose families were forcibly taken to residential schools like the one in Kamloops, the largest such facility in Canada until 1969, when its operations were transferred from the Catholic Church to the federal government. The facility was then run as a day school until it was closed in 1978.

Joe, who is a high school teacher in Chilliwack and works with First Nations students, said he has seen the sadness of generations of racism turned into anger among those he mentors.

He said young students will have to contend with intergenerational trauma, for which they’ll need support in coming days as more details emerge about the buried children who were believed to be as young as age three.

Joe was at a previously scheduled meeting of teachers on Saturday when the discovery was being discussed, and said he knew he had to call for some kind of action by educators to raise awareness of the pain inflicted on Indigenous Peoples.

“Everyone’s going to hurt, not just First Nations or Aboriginal children,” he said.

He made a motion at a scheduled meeting of educators on Saturday that teachers wear orange and gather to walk into their schools together at the start of each day this week and that flags be lowered to half mast.

Teri Mooring, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, said the union endorsed the call and teachers will be taking action to show students there needs be a response to the heart-wrenching discovery.

Mooring said school administrators and support staff should also be included in sensitivity training when it comes biases that lead to racism, which is part of the education system, the same as in other parts of society.

She said the teachers’ collective agreement includes a move to work toward increasing hiring of Indigenous teachers as universities offer more education programs for those looking to enter teaching as a career.

Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation has said the discovery in Kamloops was confirmed with the help of ground-penetrating radar and that more bodies may be found because the entire school grounds have not yet been searched.

Eric Simons, a PhD student in anthropology at the University of British Columbia, said the radar would have identified 215 grave shafts, not actual bodies, as well as changes in the soil, with some of it being more compressed.

Simons said he’s been working with a First Nation at the site of a residential school on Penelakut Island where children’s remains are believed to have been buried between 1890 and 1975, when the facility was closed.

Much more work is left to be done at the site on one of the Gulf Islands in B.C., he said of the island previously known as Kuper Island, before it was renamed about a decade ago in honour of the Penelakut First Nation.

It’s hard to say what next steps will be taken to try and identify remains at the former residential school in Kamloops, and each First Nation would decide on how to deal with the burial site depending on their cultural protocols, Simon said.

The flag at Vancouver city hall and park board facilities was lowered Sunday to half-mast, as were flags in various other communities and on federal and provincial buildings.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart said he would be speaking with the province’s Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister on Sunday evening to discuss how the city and B.C. could work together to “advance reconciliation and truly begin to reckon with the full history of genocide in Canada.”

“The legacy of this violence remains with us to this day, and it is incumbent upon all non-Indigenous Canadians to not only atone for this legacy but also help with the hard work of reconciliation,” he said in a statement.

The Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation said B.C. residents are mourning alongside the Secwépemc and all families impacted by residential schools.

“In responding to this situation, the province is taking our lead from the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc. We offer them our full support,” the ministry said in a statement.

— By Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Flags at federal buildings, BC Legislature lowered to honour residential school victims

RELATED: Remains of 215 children found at former B.C. residential school an ‘unthinkable loss’

Indigenousresidential schools

Just Posted

Police officers and their dogs undergo training at the RCMP Police Dog Services training centre in Innisfail, Alta., on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Mounties say they are searching for an armed and dangerous man near a provincial park in northern Alberta who is believed to have shot and killed a service dog during a police chase. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
RCMP search for armed man in northern Alberta after police dog shot and killed

Cpl. Deanna Fontaine says a police service dog named Jago was shot during the pursuit

Alberta now has 2,336 active cases of COVID-19, with 237 people in hospital, including 58 in intensive care. (Black Press file photo)
Red Deer down to 73 active cases of COVID-19, lowest since early November

The Central zone has 253 active cases of the virus

File photo
Update: Leduc RCMP request assistance to identify armed robbery suspect

Leduc RCMP are searching for suspect involved in an armed robbery at the Leduc Giant Tiger.

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

The federal government says it wants to ban most flavoured vaping products in a bid to reduce their appeal to youth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Craig Mitchelldyer
Health Canada proposes ban on most vaping flavours it says appeal to youth

If implemented, the regulations would restrict all e-cigarette flavours except tobacco, mint and menthol

The Montreal Police logo is seen in Montreal on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Some Quebec politicians are calling for an investigation after a video was released that appears to show a Montreal police officer with his leg on a young Black man’s neck during an arrest. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Probe called for after video appearing to show Montreal officer’s knee on Black youth’s neck

Politicians call for investigation after clip evokes memories of George Floyd incident

Thousands of protesters make their way through the downtown core during a Black Lives Matter protest in Ottawa, Friday June 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
MPs’ study of systemic racism in policing concludes RCMP needs new model

Chair of the House public safety committee says it’s time for a reckoning on ‘quasi-military’ structure

A case filled with packages of boneless chicken breasts is shown in a grocery store Sunday, May 10, 2020, in southeast Denver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-David Zalubowski
One million chickens euthanized during labour dispute at Quebec slaughterhouse

Premier says waste amounts to 13 per cent of the province’s chicken production thrown in the garbage

A section of the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies is seen west of Cochrane, Alta., Thursday, June 17, 2021. A joint federal-provincial review has denied an application for an open-pit coal mine in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, saying its impacts on the environment and Indigenous rights aren’t worth the economic benefits it would bring. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Panel says Grassy Mountain coal mine in Alberta Rockies not in public interest

Public hearings on the project in southern Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass region were held last fall

Most Read