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Peterborough area lowers flags to honour 215 children found buried at former B.C. residential school

Click to play video: 'Kamloops Discovery affecting First Nations around the country' Kamloops Discovery affecting First Nations around the country
It was a dark chapter in Canada’s history that came to light last week. It was a dark and horrific discovery, the remains of 215 children have been discovered in a mass grave near a former residential school in Kamloops British Columbia. Tricia Mason has the story. – May 31, 2021

Flags at Peterborough city hall and communities in the region are at half-mast on Monday in remembrance of the 215 children discovered at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

On Sunday afternoon, Peterborough Mayor Diane Therrien says she requested that staff lower the flags at City Hall on George Street to remember the children who were “never returned to their families.”

Read more: First Nation in Kamloops, B.C., confirms bodies of 215 children buried at former residential school site

“There are hundreds more across the country,” she said in a Tweet. “If you are shocked, you haven’t read the reports of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”

On Thursday k’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation confirmed the remains of 215 children were found buried at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

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The children were students at the school, which was one of the largest in Canada’s residential school system.

On Monday morning, residents had placed a number of stuffed toys, notes and children’s shoes on the steps of Peterborough City Hall with messages of condolences.

The City of Peterborough also issued a statement on Monday morning: “With heavy hearts we honour the lives and great loss of #215children Indigenous children. We grieve together as a community, with the City Hall flag at half-mast and a growing tribute of children’s shoes and toys on the steps.”

The Peterborough Police Service also stated it lowered its flags.

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“We grieve with our Indigenous partners and know there is much more to do. We commit to continue the work within our service,” police stated.

North of the city, flags have also been lowered to half-staff at Curve Lake First Nation.

“This horrific part of our history cannot be silenced. It cannot be forgotten,” the First Nation stated on Facebook. “When we remember the survivors we must also remember and mourn those who did not survive. Our hearts are heavy with shared grief at this time. We must continue to ensure that the true story of residential schools is told and remembered so it can never be repeated. Please join us in sending thoughts to the families and loved ones of those tragically lost to residential schools, whose lives were changed forever.”

South of the city at Hiawatha First Nation, Chief Laurie Carr noted the last residential school closed in Canada in 1996.

“So when we think about those things — when you feel that reality because I am First Nations — that could have been me; it could have been my parents; it could have been my children or even have been my grandchildren,” she said. “So it’s those things you think about then you feel for your brothers and sister in the west and all through this country.”

Carr said the history “can’t be brushed under the rug.”

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“That history is our reality today and we will be re-traumatized every time this happens,” she said.

Alderville First Nation Chief Dave Mowat says his community was shocked and “stunned into silence” by the news in Kamloops

“Think about your own children, we protect our own children and we do what we can for our own children,” he said.

“But to imagine that young children would be taken away, I think it’s important for all Canadians to keep their minds open and to be willing to learn.”

Northumberland County council during its public works committee meeting Monday morning also held a moment of silence for the children and their families.

“Northumberland County has lowered its flags as an expression of our shared sorrow at the horrific discovery at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in BC,” states county warden Bob Crate. “On behalf of County Council and staff, our thoughts remain with Tk’emlúps te Secwé­pemc First Nation, and with all survivors, families and communities who con­tinue to experience the trauma of Canada’s residential school system.”

Tuesday marks National Indigenous History month and June 21 is national Indigenous Peoples Day.

“There is a wide variety of emotion that people are feeling and it is really important to have the general Canadian population to understand and support that it is genocide on our people,” said Carr.

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— With files from Tricia Mason/Global News Peterborough.

Stuffed animals on the steps of Peterborough City Hall on Monday, May 31, 2021.
Stuffed animals on the steps of Peterborough City Hall on Monday, May 31, 2021. Paul Dinsdale/Global News Peterborough

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