HONOURING THE TRUTH PUBLICLY REVEALED ABOUT A BURIAL SITE AT FORMER KAMLOOPS INDIAN RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL
Submitted by Harmony Johnson, Interim Vice President, Indigenous Wellness and Reconciliation, Providence Health Care
Warning: This post contains information that readers may find triggering and/or distressing
Yesterday, it was shared with the public that the remains of 215 children were found buried on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, which operated from 1890 to 1969 and subsequently served as a residence for a day school until 1978.
Many of us have been processing feelings of sadness and grief, as well as gratitude to Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimer and the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation for revealing this truth and honouring these children and their families in a way grounded in cultural protocol and teachings. Each of these children was taken from a family, community and Nation that cherished, loved, missed, and mourned them, and spent years questioning what happened to their child.
Providence Health Care is committed to the process of Truth and Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in BC, and to embed reconciliation in everything we do. This means welcoming these challenging and difficult truths as a necessary part of, and precursor to, healing and reconciliation.
Every day presents an opportunity to make a personal action towards the process of Truth and Reconciliation and acknowledging the voice and resiliency of Indigenous Peoples. If you do not know about the legacy of the Residential School system or would like to further your own learning in support of your own humility journey, please see the resources listed below.
It also means that we have to take care of ourselves as we process these truths. To Providence staff who are from Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation, who are Indigenous and therefore carry similar experiences in our families and communities, and to all Providence staff affected by the news, supports are available if you need them, and are summarized below.
I look forward to working with all of you as we collectively do the work to advance our Commitment to Truth and Reconciliation, and welcome all self-identified Indigenous staff to reach out to me if I can be of support. I invite you to join me in sending thoughts and prayers to the families of these children, to the Tk’emlups team involved in this work, and for those who share these same stories and experiences in our own families.
Internal support for all PHC staff:
- Homewood Health EFAP Program provides 24/7 support 7 days a week 365 days of the year. Call: 1-800-663-1142 (24/7). Website: https://homeweb.ca/
- Homewood Health Elder Support Program provides self-identified Indigenous individuals the ability to designate an Elder best able to help them. Please contact Sandy Coughlin (firstname.lastname@example.org) in Occupational Health & Safety for more information and how to be connected to this support.
- PHC Staff Mental Health and Wellness Toolkit Website: http://staffmentalhealth.providencehealthcare.org/
Additional supports for Indigenous peoples:
- KUU-US Crisis Line Society: Provides a First Nations and Indigenous specific crisis line available 24hrs a day, 7 days a week, toll-free anywhere in BC at 1-800-588-8717. Alternatively, call direct into the Youth Line at 250 723-2040 or the Adult Line at 250 723-4050, or online: https://www.kuu-uscrisisline.com/
- Mental Health Benefit via FNHA: A plan that covers counselling services from a qualified mental health provider, including psychologists, clinical counsellors and social workers. Your plan will cover as many hours of counselling as you and your provider determine you need. Even if you do not have status, you may be eligible for mental health coverage through one of the specialized mental health programs funded by Indigenous Services Canada. Please see this page here for how to access this service https://www.fnha.ca/benefits/mental-health
- Pacific Association of First Nations Women (PAFNW): Has a variety of FREE participatory programs and inclusive events to support wellness, including Brushings, Drum Circles, and even one on one counselling services to support you during COVID-19 or when you’ve just had a hard day. Please see here for more information https://pafnw.wordpress.com/covid-19/
- National Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former Residential School students and those affected. Access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1 866 925-4419.