Warning: Some of the details in this story may be disturbing to some readers. Discretion is advised.
Indigenous leaders in New Brunswick are sharing the grief and anger with people around the country, after the bodies of 215 First Nations children were found in unmarked burial sites at the former site of a residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
Chief George Ginnish of Natoaganeg First Nation says his community includes several residential school survivors are who are hurt.
“This rings like something that would happen in a third world country. You know, you have a mass grave. You have the truth hidden for decades and decades,” he told Global News.
“Even the kids in our school are hurting. They’re seeing this. It’s all over social media and they’re saying, ‘How can anyone be so cruel?'”
Flags at the provincial legislature in Fredericton and other government buildings around the province were lowered to half mast, as Premier Blaine Higgs offered his condolences on Twitter.
Pairs of shoes, to represent the lives lost, were left on the stairs of the legislature and at several churches around the province.
Ginnish says Indigenous communities will gather for vigils over the coming days.
One organization in Saint John says it wants to raise awareness about an often overlooked tragedy.
“When it comes to my friends, my colleagues in general, it’s something that people don’t talk about,” said Kateri Hibbert, the co-founder of Eastern Circle.
“Now that there’s a very obvious situation where it can’t ignored, we’re going to take this opportunity to educate the best we can.”
Eastern Circle plans to hold a vigil and fundraiser this Sunday in Kings Square. Proceeds will go to residential school survivors.
Anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience can access this 24-hour, toll-free and confidential National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.