Statement on Residential Schools
In May 2021, a survey of the grounds at the former Kamloops Indian Residential school in British Columbia uncovered the remains of 215 children buried at the site. In June 2021, 751 unmarked graves were discovered in Cowessess, Saskatchewan near the site of the Marieval Indian Residential School. It is very likely that each of the 130 residential schools in Canada had a burial site and more will discovered in the years to come. The National Student Memorial Register has been created to forever remember and honour the children who never returned home from residential schools.
These discoveries have drawn attention to the intergenerational grief and trauma inflicted upon First Nations Peoples by the residential school system in Canada. While Indigenous Peoples have known and spoken of this truth for years, settlers have not listened.
Communities are grieving not only the loss of thousands of children but also the innumerable losses caused by the residential school system. Indigenous people share these painful stories and experiences to bring awareness to the truths of Indigenous experiences in Canada. Acknowledging these truths are uncomfortable and necessary.
The Alberta Hospice Palliative Care Association has long recognized the impact that grief has on every one of us. This includes disenfranchised grief, which is grief that is unrecognized by others. For example, when First Nations Peoples are told they should get over a loss because it was a long time ago. Or when we are grieving the deaths of 966 children we did not know at all.
Instead of feeling helpless in the face of grief, there is power in learning, advocacy and being an active participant in reconciliation.
Whose land do you live on?
Do you live near a residential school site?
The residential school system separated 150,000 Indigenous children from their families. The last one closed in 1996. Find out whether you lived near a residential school in the community where you grew up.
What happened? When? Why?
Learn more about the purpose, establishment and history of residential schools.
Learn more with the Residential School Timeline and other exhibits available through the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission published its findings and 94 Calls to Action. Take the time to read the Calls to Action. Reflect upon the fact that, seven years later, most of the Calls to Action remain incomplete.
Contact your Member of Parliament, your Member of the Legislative Assembly and your local elected officials to ask them what they are doing to make a positive change.
Learn first, then talk
Have the conversations to educate the settlers in your life about why this is important. If you feel you need to learn more yourself, take the FREE Indigenous Canada course through the University of Alberta.
Please contact the 24-hour Residential School Crisis Line at 1 866 925 4419 if you need emotional support in relation to feelings related to residential school experiences.