Mass impact from discovery of mass grave

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Dozens of pairs of children’s shoes adorn the base of a monument on Walpole Island First Nation erected in 2002 to honour the children from Walpole Island who attended residential schools. Members of the First Nation community brought the shoes following the recent discovery of the bodies of 215 children at a residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

“Extremely heartbroken.”

Those were the words Walpole Island First Nation Chief Charles Sampson used to describe the community’s feeling following the discovery of 215 children in a mass grave at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.

Children’s shoes of all shapes and sizes have been set at the foot of a monument erected in 2002 to honour the children of Walpole who were plucked from their homes and taken to schools where they often suffered horrific abuse.

Flags on Walpole have been lowered and orange flags are in place to honour the 215 youngsters who left home never to return.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to the families,” Chief Sampson said in a media release Monday. “We pray you will have peace and healing.”

Sampson said justice must be sought for all the lost children and families “broken” by residential schools, asking, “Where is the justice for Anishnebek people?”

Towards that end, Bkejwanong Territory Council of the Three Fires is calling for a National Day of Mourning and asks that the “Indian Policy,” carried out by the Canadian government and churches be investigated under an international court of law.

The Three Fires Council is also calling for Canada to be held accountable for “crimes against humanity” that include genocide and ethnic cleansing.

On behalf of his people, Sampson asks all Indigenous residential school residents be accounted for. Those that are missing must be identified, he said, and given proper ceremonial burial.

Finally, the council calls for Canadian history books and teaching materials be rewritten to expose the reality of how the Anishnebek children and their families were treated.

The Kamloops school was operated by the Catholic Church from 1890 to 1969. The federal government then took over to run it as a residence for a day school until closing it in 1978.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ordered flags at federal buildings to fly at half-mast Monday and he also announced more support will be made available to residential school survivors.

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent also lowered its flags to half-mast.

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