The Greater Victoria School District is extending its support services to students, staff and families in the wake of news that a mass grave with child remains has been discovered at a Kamloops residential school.
Last week, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation says new ground-penetrating technology led to the discovery of the grave, where the remains of 215 children were found. The deaths of these children are believed to be undocumented.
The news has sparked the Greater Victoria School District to send a letter to families offering additional support services during this time.
“The pain of this discovery reverberates through communities across the country, including ours,” reads the letter, penned by District Superintendent Shelley Green.
“We understand this is very difficult for families and communities at this time, including survivors of residential schools and for those who may have had a loved one who never returned. I want you to know that our learning community is here for everyone who is grieving and we hold space for you.”
Green is encouraging students, staff and families to reach out to people within their circle and check in with them in order to see how they are doing. She also is encouraging staff and students to seek support if required.
“We have supports in place for our students, staff and families who may need assistance at this time. Our Indigenous Education Department is working alongside our Critical Incident Response Team who is readily available. If you or someone you know requires counselling or additional support, please connect with your School Principal,” reads the letter.
The Greater Victoria School District is inviting its community to wear orange this week to “honour the lives of those children and demonstrate that every child matters.”
Green adds in the letter that flags at schools throughout the district will be at half-mast to recognize the 215 Indigenous children whose lives were lost, the Indigenous students who never made it home, the survivors and their families.
“As we move forward, I ask that we all take a moment to recognize the harm caused by colonialism and commit to the work of healing and doing better together. Our communities are very interwoven so when one hurts, we all hurt. We must continue to support each other on the path to reconciliation, so please know we are here to support you.”
The First Nations Health Authority has also outlined it will be providing mental health and trauma support to community members during this difficult time.
Additional support services can be found below.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Website – http://www.trc.ca/index.html
• Indian Residential School Survivors Society – 24 Hour Crisis Line (1-800-721-0066)
• KUU-US Crisis Line Society – 24 Hour Crisis Line (British Columbia) (1-800-588-8717)
• National Indian Residential School Crisis Line (1-800-925-4419)
• Métis Nation BC – Mental Health Services
• First Nations Health Authority – Mental Health Benefit