Two years ago, the Stó:lō Nations Chiefs Council (SNCC), under the leadership of Chief David Jimmie, president of the SNCC, launched a broad and inclusive initiative to investigate potential unmarked graves and missing children related to three former residential school sites within S’ólh Téméxw, the shared territory of the Stó:lō. The SNCC initially focused their efforts on St. Mary’s Residential School in Mission, but expanded to include Coqualeetza Industrial Institute/Residential School in Chilliwack, All Hallows School in Yale, and the Coqualeetza Indian Hospital, collectively under the “Taking Care of Our Children” initiative.
On September 21, the team leading the initiative shared a painful update on oral-history, archival and geophysical findings, which included the horrifying confirmation of the deaths of at least 158 Indigenous children.
We know in our hearts this is not the end; there will be more children found at more residential schools across British Columbia and Canada. As settlers and occupiers, it is our responsibility to bear witness and acknowledge that this is the terrible truth of Indigenous-specific racism in Canada: Residential schools and the colonial structures from which they rose, existed for the explicit purpose of eradicating the lives of First Nation and Indigenous people, starting with those we hold most dear: our children.
Ignoring this truth makes us vulnerable to repeating violence and harm. And that cannot be.
At PHSA, our work in this moment is to show up with love and compassion for our Indigenous patients, clients, their families and PHSA staff who will be grieving the loss of loved ones from Stó:lō. We can never know their pain, but we can walk alongside them.
Our settler colonial history is our settler colonial society today. Therefore, we have both the obligation and the opportunity to educate ourselves and then take meaningful actions to end the cycle of harm, and begin a new way of being from this day forward. We cannot be passive in our efforts.
On behalf of the people of PHSA, I wish First Nations and Indigenous patients, families and communities the support you need, and offer my steadfast commitment to action so that PHSA may become a place of safety for you and your family members.
Indigenous-specific supports and services available:
- KUU-US crisis line: 1-800-588-8717
- National Indian Residential School Crisis Line (for former residential school students and others needed support): 1-866-925-4419
- IRSSS Emergency Crisis Line: 604-985-4464 or 1-800-721-0066
- Text/phone resources for youth (24/7), you can request to speak to an Indigenous crisis responder: 1-800-668-6868, text 686868
- Tsow-Tun-Le-Lum Society: 1-888-403-3123