Statement from the PHSA executive leadership team
Today marks one year since Kukpi7/Chief Rosanne Casimir confirmed the horrific loss of 215 children at the former Indian Residential School on Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc territory in Kamloops, B.C.
In the months that followed, the bodies of more children were discovered at other former residential schools, and sadly, we must accept that there likely will be more to come. This is part of the ugly and undeniable legacy of colonialism in Canada. It is a legacy that Indigenous People have long-known to be true and that we, as Occupiers, must also see and accept as both our past and our present.
There is clear evidence that Indigenous-specific racism continues to exist and cause harm to the Indigenous patients and families we serve, to those we don’t serve because they feel unsafe in seeking care, and to the Indigenous health-care workers who do not yet see PHSA as a safe and welcoming place to work. In all of these scenarios, we are causing undeniable – and preventable – harm.
The evidence of ongoing, multi-generational harm caused by colonialism is present everywhere. It exists in the disproportionate numbers of Indigenous people dying from opioid use, committing suicide to escape their pain, and experiencing poorer health outcomes across every interaction with the health-care system. It exists in the gross overrepresentation in correctional facilities; the numbers of Indigenous children separated from their families, communities and cultures; and the Indigenous children and youth denied equitable access to safe, quality care and services.
These realities reflect life in Canada for Indigenous people today and we acknowledge them as part of the present day legacy of residential schools and related atrocities, lest we slide into the false comfort that residential schools are an isolated part of our past.
All of us have the ability, right now, to be good medicine to each other and to the Indigenous people we serve and support. To name and address racism and to call for change. To become passionate and educated advocates for both western and Indigenous ways of knowing and to commit, every day, to doing the right thing, even when it may be uncomfortable or unpopular.
To the generations of Indigenous People remembering the Le Estcwicwe̓y̓ of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and all others who lost their lives or were diminished due to the reality of Indigenous-specific racism, we offer our profound sympathy and compassion. We also share our commitment to be an organization that that shows up in a good way, taking meaningful action to help break the cycle of trauma for Indigenous children and their families.