For far too long, Indigenous parents, families and communities whose children were stolen by residential schools and who never returned home, have been calling for answers. They have demanded accountability for the emotional, physical and sexual abuse, malnourishment and harsh conditions children were forced to endure, and have long sought support for investigation and protection of those sites where children were buried.
Last week’s preliminary, discovery of the remains of 215 children buried in an unmarked grave at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School has been a stark reminder of the ongoing legacy of trauma of residential schools, and of the importance of remembering and honouring the victims of the residential school system. We stand in support of the Tk'emlúps te Secwe̓pemc First Nation and all Indigenous Peoples of Canada in calling on the federal government to work with residential school Survivors and Indigenous governments to develop and implement strategies for the ongoing investigation and protection of burial sites.
We at Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies acknowledge that Canada’s and UBC’s graduate education enterprise has played a role of complicity. We have supported and approved research that didn’t question the racist assumptions of the residential school system or the conditions in the schools, and we have failed to address the exclusion of Indigenous students from higher education. We have perpetuated epistemic and structural injustice.
We recognize the importance of truth and reconciliation, and the reality that for so many Indigenous peoples, education and trauma go hand in hand. As outlined in our Strategic Priorities, we are seeking to redress past harms by, among other avenues, reducing barriers for Indigenous students to graduate education and expanding the ways in which we support Indigenous students, Indigenous culture, and Indigenous ways of knowing. We are continuing to learn and to work towards greater inclusivity’
Our thoughts are with the families, communities, survivors, and all who mourn.
To members of our UBC graduate community affected by this devastating news, the ongoing trauma of the Residential School system, there are supports available: Counselling Services: https://indigenous.ubc.ca/students/current-students/student-resources/student-health/