215 children. Every child matters.
Dear parents, caregivers and students,
As you likely heard, last week we all learned of the tragic news that the remains of 215 children were found at a former residential school in Kamloops – news shared by representatives from the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation.
We know and understand that Indigenous children were facing atrocities like this at residential schools. The reality of how this news feels may be very different than knowing. For many of us, this news is both heartbreaking and gut-wrenching, and it is hitting many people in a very impactful way.
Our hearts go out to families of those 215 children, to the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc community who is mourning, to the Indigenous students and families we support here in New Westminster who may be feeling the weight of this, to our staff who are Indigenous, and to Indigenous peoples throughout Canada.
As a District, we have lowered our flags to half-mast, and will do so until further notice. Our team of Aboriginal Support Workers are reaching out to the students and families they work with, to offer support and resources. And staff and students across the District have chosen to wear orange today and throughout the week – as a show of support and commitment to the truth and reconciliation process.
We thank those of you who have sent your kids in orange today, and we invite everyone to wear orange this Friday June 4th … a joint effort to show that every child matters.
*For families who don’t have an orange clothing option, we know some schools are working on alternate options of stickers, etc to enable more fulsome participation.
For those who are just learning about residential schools and the intergenerational trauma they caused, we wanted to share a few resources that might support your own learning or be helpful in supporting difficult conversations you may choose to have with your kids this week. Here are a few resources you might want to look at:
- This link to the Orange Shirt Day website, to understand it’s connection to commemorating the residential school experience, and to witnessing and honouring the healing journey of survivors and families: https://www.orangeshirtday.org/
- Here’s a historical timeline of BC’s Frist Peoples: https://www.bctf.ca/uploadedFiles/POH/timelineENG.pdf
- There are great age-based resources listed on the education page of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation: https://nctr.ca/education/
- Gord Downie’s project, The Secret Path: https://secretpath.ca/
- And here’s a list of books, listed by school level, that might be good tools: https://irshdc.ubc.ca/2019/06/26/must-reads/
For those who might need some additional personal support right now, or moving forward:
- Support is available for anyone affected by the lingering effects of residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports. The Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-721-0066.
- The National Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. Access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.
- Within B.C., the KUU-US Crisis Line Society provides a First Nations and Indigenous-specific crisis line available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s toll-free and can be reached at 1-800-588-8717 or online at kuu-uscrisisline.com.
Thank you all for your continued commitment to the process of truth and reconciliation – both today and throughout the year.
Superintendent of Schools / CEO