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In the wake of the recent discovery of the remains and unmarked graves of 215 children at a former residential school in Kamloops, we want to offer you and your families some options for responding to this devastating news. 

1. A prayer for the uncovering of the graves. (CRCNA and Indigenous Ministries)

2. A prayer from Revs. Michael and Jana VanderLaan, (CRC pastors in Kamloops)  

3.  A short video from Daryl Dekleer, (CRC pastor in Vernon) upon visiting the site of the Kamloops Residential School.

4.  A statement from the CRCNA along with other resources and prayers. 

5.  Dena Nicolai, who recently preached for us here at Willoughby, has offered some thoughts concerning the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which have yet to be completed. 

She writes:  "As Canada mourns in response to the horrifying news out of the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, I think it's important to remember that this news should not be surprising.  Indigenous communities have been telling us for years about the possibilities of mass graves at schools around the country.  In fact, in the report released in 2015 by the TRC, they detailed what should be done in response.  So while Facebook profile images and orange shirts can be helpful signs of solidarity, we have so much more to pay attention to and to do.

As Khelsilem, an Indigenous leader and spokesperson for the Squamish nation notes: "On Missing Children and Burial Information, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had six Calls-to-Action which have not yet been completed.  

Here are the six:  

71. We call upon all chief coroners and provincial vital statistics agencies that have not provided to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada their records on the deaths of Aboriginal children in the care of residential school authorities to make these documents available to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

72. We call upon the federal government to allocate sufficient resources to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to allow it to develop and maintain the National Residential School Student Death Register established by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

73. We call upon the federal government to work with churches, Aboriginal communities, and former residential school students to establish and maintain an online registry of residential school cemeteries, including, where possible, plot maps showing the location of deceased residential school children.

74. We call upon the federal government to work with the churches and Aboriginal community leaders to inform the families of children who died at residential schools of the child’s burial location, and to respond to families’ wishes for appropriate commemoration ceremonies and markers, and reburial in home communities where requested.

75. We call upon the federal government to work with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, churches, Aboriginal communities, former residential school students, and current landowners to develop and implement strategies and procedures for the ongoing identification, documentation, maintenance, commemoration, and protection of residential school cemeteries or other sites at which residential school children were buried. This is to include the provision of appropriate memorial ceremonies and commemorative markers to honour the deceased children.

76. We call upon the parties engaged in the work of documenting, maintaining, commemorating, and protecting residential school cemeteries to adopt strategies in accordance with the following principles:

i. The Aboriginal community most affected shall lead the development of such strategies.
ii. Information shall be sought from residential school Survivors and other Knowledge Keepers in the development of such strategies.
iii. Aboriginal protocols shall be respected before any potentially invasive technical inspection and investigation of a cemetery site."

As he ends: "If the news from the Kamloops Indian Residential School hit you in any way, I call on you to fight like hell to ensure the 94 Calls-to-Action are all completed in our lifetime."

Passing Bill C-15 would be one step in that fight. 

6. Contact your Senator and ask them to pass Bill C-15, for the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the laws of Canada. Given the possibility of an election this fall, it is urgent that this legislation for Indigenous rights pass this month! Here is the Action Alert produced by the Centre of Public Dialogue.

7.  Learn more about to take action here Take Action

For more resources and ways to respond see the following: 

1. Take the time to learn about residential school histories in your community and region. Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action and encourage others to do the same. Encourage your leaders to implement the Calls to Action, and especially #71-76. Explore CBC’s Beyond 94 website to view the progress tracking of the Calls to Action.

2. "Living the Call to Reconciliation", a week-long devotional series exploring Indigenous justice,

3. From the CRC Canadian Indigenous Ministries

By no means is this an exhaustive list of resources of prayer and action. Please contact the Canadian Indigenous Ministry Committee ([email protected]) or the Centre for Public Dialogue ([email protected]) for any further information or questions.