A statement on National Indigenous Month and the discovery at the Kamloops Indian Residential School

The following is a statement that was issued on Monday, May 31 from President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton, Vice-President Equity, People and Culture Sheila Cote-Meek, and the Indigenous Council at York University on National Indigenous History Month and the discovery last week of the mass grave of 215 Indigenous children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School:

Each June, we mark National Indigenous History Month to celebrate the history, heritage and diversity of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in Canada. National Indigenous Peoples Day is June 21 every year. It is a day to recognize the outstanding contributions, unique heritage and cultures of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples.

The discovery last week of the mass grave of 215 Indigenous children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School – located on the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation – is a tragic reminder that this history is still felt today through intergenerational trauma and that there is still a long road towards reconciliation.

York University offers condolences to the Indigenous community. Beginning today, flags will be lowered to half-mast for 215 hours to remember the 215 children who never returned home from Kamloops Indian Residential School and all victims and survivors of the Residential School system. We also encourage members of the York community to observe a moment of silence at 2:15 p.m. today, Monday, May 31, to reflect on the impacts of Residential Schools on Indigenous communities and the actions we can take towards reconciliation.

Increasing understanding and awareness is one step we can all take. We know the work of reconciliation is ongoing and requires a concerted effort. We encourage York community members to learn more about the history of Residential Schools and its impact, as well as take up the Indigenous Framework for York University: A Guide to Action, which helps guide us as we move forward.

There are a variety of supports available to the York community listed on the Mental Health and Wellness site and through the Employee & Family Assistance Program.

Supports specific to the York Indigenous community are also available through the Centre for Indigenous Student Services. Additionally, a 24-hour National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available to provide support for former Residential School students at 1-866-925-4419.

Members of the York community can show their support by:

  • circulating talk lines;
  • holding solidarity vigils; and
  • joining the Anishinabek Nation by placing a teddy bear on their front porches at 6 p.m. tonight and leaving porch lights on.

We encourage all members of the York University community to take pause – at the beginning of National Indigenous History Month – to reflect on the ongoing impact of the Residential School system and the resulting trauma. Anyone wishing to make a donation can find information at the Indigenous Residential School Survivors Society.

We share sincere condolences and heartfelt wishes for reconciliation and healing with the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, and especially the York Indigenous community.

Sincerely,

Rhonda Lenton
President and Vice-Chancellor

Sheila Cote-Meek
Vice-President, Equity, People and Culture

The Indigenous Council at York University

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