The entire country was saddened and some were shocked when the atrocity of 215 children – students – were discovered at unmarked grave sites at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in late May.
Some people weren’t so shocked.
Rex Daniels, a councillor for Eden Valley with the Bearspaw First Nation, had relatives, his father for one who attended residential school in Morley. Okotoks resident Leah Koski had grandparents who attended residential schools.
And residential schools also existed close to home – 73 graves were discovered at the Dunbow Residential School along the Highwood River within the last 30 years.
Daniels expressed concerns more graves will be found across Canada in the future.
These discoveries are a grim reminder that Canada too has a checkered past. It’s important that not only do we remember the past, but Canadians continue to learn from what was unearthed in Kamloops.
Forty years ago, the mention of residential schools in classrooms was virtually non-existent. Fortunately, that has changed and with some of the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation commission, indigenous culture – including the history of residential school system, is part of the education system.
The efforts of students at Foothills Composite last week and other schools — and with more to follow in the area this week — is evidence, hopefully, that the atrocities of residential schools and what was discovered in Kamloops will not be forgotten.
As well, the memorial at the Okotoks Municipal Square, with hundreds of pairs of shoes being left in memory of the 215 Kamloops students, is representative of the sorrow and grief Canadians share.
But what can't happen is this becomes lips service.
The Kamloops atrocity is in the past, but it can not be put behind us. Canada must move forward with further investigation on residential schools, appropriate apologies and restitution.
For only with truth can reconciliation be achieved.