The Quebec flag will fly at half-mast over the national assembly for 215 hours to remember the 215 children whose remains were found in a mass grave at the former Kamloops residential school.
The news of the discovery has provoked outrage and sadness right across the country. There are now calls for action in Quebec.
The remains were discovered by ground-penetrating radar. A spokesperson for the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake wonders what that type of technology could find in Quebec.
“That actually scares me because if there was one site like that, who knows what will turn up?” said Joe Delaronde.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafrenière said he will support requests to the federal government to bring in the radar technology everywhere, including in Quebec. Delaronde said there are still too many missing Indigenous children in Canada whose bodies have never been found.
“Some children were off in the bush trying to find their way home and they died out there, so we’re never going to find everyone, but every method at our disposal has to be used,” he said.
In 2020, family members whose siblings were forced into residential schools pleaded for answers at the national assembly.
“We heard from victims in Quebec who said, ‘My sister was taken to a hospital and never heard from again. We were never told what happened to her.’ Or, ‘A brother that went to a residential school and just disappeared,'” said Liberal MNA Greg Kelley.
The national assembly is currently studying a bill that would give these families more powers and permit the coroner’s office to conduct inquiries. That bill could be passed as early as this week.
“We’ve been putting a lot of effort into Bill 79 because we believe families, they need to know what happened. They need to know what happened,” said Lafrenière.
Kelley said “it’s time we start to look at ourselves in the mirror in Quebec and in Canada and say, can we not only remember and talk about what happened, but how do we move forward?”
For Delaronde, that means admitting something the government of Quebec does not want to admit.
“There’s been so much reluctance to admit to systemic violence, or systemic racism, against Indigenous people, but it just goes to show how deep that is,” he said.
It’s one more striking example of how the after-effects of the heartbreaking legacy of Canada’s residential schools are still being felt.
The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419) is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience.