Local First Nations call for further investigations into former residential school sites
LONDON, ONT. -- The uncovering of the mass grave site at a former residential school in B.C. has First Nation chiefs calling for further investigations at other former residential schools areas across the country.
The connection runs deep for Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, says Chief Jaqueline French, an area where the former Mount Elgin residential school once stood.
“I feel that we as Chippewas of the Thames have a responsibility to further investigate what actually happened at the school. We know children made it home, we know some children didn’t make it home.”
A memorial ceremony was held on Monday morning, where Indigenous people honoured the young lives lost in B.C as well as the lives forced into residential schooling.
French calls the ceremony "emotional beyond words" and says she is calling for further investigations to be conducted at the area of the Mount Elgin residential school.
“Do we know that we will end up finding a mass grave? We don’t know, but there is a lot of work as a nation we need to move forward with.”
The call for further investigations is echoed by Oneida of the Thames First Nation Chief Adrian ChrisJohn.
“This hits home for every First Nations' person in Canada if not the world…there's sadness, anger and astonishment…residential school systems were in our communities all those years ago, and I would like to see our local First Nations communities push for those properties to be further investigated as well...but the only way to approach this topic peacefully is through education.”
A culture advisor for local school boards, Ray John Jr. goes school to school educating students on Indigenous history.
He says the best way to create a connection between all communities is by asking the tough questions.
“If you think of those 215 kids in Kamloops, they were just babies, just babies. People today actually can’t comprehend that. Can you do that to a toddler? People say no I can’t. We'll that's what happened. So when I go into schools, no matter what classroom, all these conversations we have, it has to be comfortable so they keep asking.”
French adds, “There's always room to change, there is always a time to start and look at things differently and I think that is what needs to happen today."