Statement on the Tragic Discovery in Kamloops, BC

Children's moccasins

On behalf of our membership, Board of Directors and office staff, CESBA is shaken and saddened by the discovery of the deplorable loss of life of the 215 children in the Kamloops residential school. We express our heartfelt condolences to Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation and Indigenous communities across Canada.

This is further evidence of the genocide of Indigenous Peoples across Canada. Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their homes, families and communities to attend state and church-led schools that aimed to strip them of their culture, language and identity, and that subjected them to unspeakable cruelty and abuse. This has caused a legacy of intergenerational trauma that continues to be felt by Indigenous families and communities today. This is known to Indigenous communities whose leaders have continually spoken out, often to disbelieving and unresponsive institutions and governments.

This tragedy reminds us as educators that we must reckon with our sector’s history of institutional racism towards Indigenous Peoples, as well as the current inequity within our educational systems. We acknowledge the role schools have played in devaluing and silencing Indigenous Ways of Knowing. As an organization that supports adult and continuing education in Ontario school boards, CESBA has a unique opportunity to engage with adult Indigenous learners who were marginalized within our schools in the past. It is our responsibility to offer an educational environment that welcomes, affirms and supports all Indigenous learners, staff and community members. Our learning organizations must be places of hope. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves. To do this, we must continue to listen to and learn from Indigenous communities and leaders.

To advance the process of reconciliation, our sector must commit to the Calls to Action for Education (6-12) outlined by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. CESBA has recently formed a Committee to Support Indigenous Adult Learners, with both Indigenous and settler members. Its objective is to offer school board administrators and staff the support, learning opportunities and resource development to better serve Indigenous learners and staff.

We take this collective moment of grief as a call to action. We commit to calling out systemic racism and inequity towards Indigenous Peoples in our institutions and communities. We will explore ways to expand our listening, learn the truth and strive towards reconciliation.

Here are some links for our members and stakeholders to learn more:

Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Calls to Action

Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Calls to Action for Education

National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

National Student Memorial Map

First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act

CBC Podcast: Telling our Twisted Histories

For survivors—Residential School Survivor Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419