OCSU’s Statement on Kamloops Residential School

Trigger Warning: Distressing content regarding Residential Schools

The Okanagan College Students’ Union stands in solidarity with the families, the communities, and the residential school survivors who all mourn upon confirmation of the burial site of 215 children on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. 

Residential schools were intentionally designed to systematically and forcefully remove Indigenous children from their heritage, communities, and culture. The last of Canada’s Residential Schools did not close until 1996. The trauma from these schools is ongoing and survivors of this insidious system are still with us. This isn’t history, it’s reality. All Canadians are responsible for reparations and reconciliations for the severe intergenerational trauma still felt to this day. This means not only acknowledging the cultural genocide that Indigenous communities face–and the benefit that settlers possess from colonialism–but also demanding tangible action and accountability from our leaders. 

Canada’s true history is fraught with colonialism and the continued oppression of Indigenous rights, communities, and voices–systemic harm that persists today. Indigenous communities remain without drinking water; the inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls remains underfunded and egregiously neglected; Indigenous children are alleged to be subjected to compulsory IUD insertion in foster care; the Canadian government continues to separate Indigenous children from their families through the child welfare system, whereby Indigenous children are overrepresented; amendments to provincial curricula attempt to erase Indigenous history from classroom teachings; and merely a handful of the 94 calls to action from the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation report have been implemented by the government. This is in no way a complete list of the harm that remains at the forefront of Canadian policy. 

We understand that this news can bring distressing emotions for many members of the Okanagan College community. If you are in need of support, services are available through Okanagan College’s Aboriginal Services, and the 24/7 First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness online chat or toll-free helpline at 1-855-242-3310.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of National Indigenous History Month. For the OCSU in particular, we will be celebrating the history, diversity, and heritage of the Syilx-Okanagan People & Secwepemc-Shuswap People whose traditional and unceded territories the Okanagan College campuses have the privilege to be situated on.

Please join us in uplifting these communities, and in acknowledging our part in the work, learning, and un-learning that must be done to reconcile with the diverse Indigenous peoples of Canada.