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ETFO statement on discovery of unmarked graves of 215 Indigenous children in Kamloops

There are many grieving the discovery of the unmarked graves of 215 Indigenous children at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia. The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) mourns the loss with the communities and families affected by both the direct and intergenerational impact of residential schools. Survivors have been sharing their Truths for decades; though it has been difficult to hear, the past week has confirmed many of their stories. 

Across Canada, flags are being lowered in memory of these 215 children, but we must not forget the thousands of children who were taken from their loved ones and sent to residential schools, never to return home. The news is a devastating reminder of Canada’s national shame: the residential school system.

The racial injustice did not end with the closing of residential schools; it continued through the Sixties Scoop, the criminal justice system, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), and the lack of access to clean drinking water. It is important to acknowledge these systemic issues that are rooted in white supremacy, and the work that still needs to be done.

In 2015, ETFO endorsed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and remains committed to supporting educators, communities and students in continuing these conversations. While we renew our call to demand action for reconciliation and justice, we also know this is a moment to engage in learning, but talking about residential schools requires care.

It is important that we approach this learning in culturally safe and trauma-informed ways to ensure we do not unintentionally perpetuate colonial violence and harm. ETFO’s Healing Conversations resource supports educators in discussing residential schools, the Sixties Scoop and MMIWG.

As we move into June, National Indigenous History Month, commit to continuing the work of reconciliation and taking action throughout the year by:

Other resources to support educators in their unlearning, learning and re-learning are available on etfofnmi.ca.