Taking care: We recognize that this statement comes at a time that is difficult for many and that our efforts to honour victims and families may act as an unwelcome reminder to those who have suffered hardships through generations of government policies that were harmful to Indigenous Peoples. A support line is available to former residential school students and their families for support, emotional and crisis referral services. You can also find information on how to obtain other health supports from the Government of Canada.
Please call the Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419 if you or someone you know is triggered while reading this.
We encourage all those who need some support at this time to reach out and know that support is always there for you through the Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310 (toll-free) or the online chat at hopeforwellness.ca, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Ottawa, Ontario (June 30, 2021) — The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, and the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services Canada, issued the following statement regarding ceremonies held today at the site of the former Lower Post residential school:
“Today, 46 years to the day after the former residential school closed, the Daylu Dena Council held an important gathering where Survivors shared their experiences at the Lower Post residential school. Those in attendance bore witness to this truth-telling and watched a ceremonial demolition of the school, removing a constant reminder of a very painful past. By removing this painful reminder, the community can look toward the future in anticipation of a new multi-purpose building where everyone feels safe and welcomed.
We want to acknowledge Daylu Dena Council’s longstanding efforts to have the former residential school demolished in order to build a new facility—one designed around community needs and that supports healing, where the Kaska Dena community can gather, celebrate and learn. Canada is honoured to work in collaboration with Daylu Dena Council and the Province of British Columbia to support these efforts.
Today’s ceremony comes during a deeply emotional time for Indigenous Peoples, following the recent discovery of unmarked graves and children’s remains in the traditional territories of the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc and Cowessess First Nations and others across the country. Some Canadians are only now learning of the trauma that Survivors, families and communities are experiencing because of the intergenerational impacts of residential schools.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimated that more than 4,100 Indigenous students died in residential school across Canada. Through the experiences shared by Survivors, we know that there are other cases of unmarked graves across the country, and many more will be located. This is the grim reality of residential schools.
As we reflect, we must acknowledge that this is not a historical event. Survivors, and the families and communities who never knew what happened to their children, are living through this tragedy in the present day, and we must support them. The harms suffered by Indigenous children at Lower Post residential school, and others like it, are horrific and have impacted Survivors, families and communities across generations. We must never forget those innocent children who never returned home and those with us today who are hurting.
We hope that today’s gathering and ceremonies are a step toward healing for all those affected and that we can begin to move forward together on a better path.
There cannot be reconciliation without healing and, to heal, we must acknowledge the truth. As a government, reconciliation requires us to do our part to understand the harms these racist and colonial policies inflicted, and to take action to support Indigenous Peoples on the path forward together.”