We are devastated at the recent news of the discovery of 215 First Nations children's bodies at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. As an ally organization, Right To Play stands in solidarity with the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation and all other Indigenous communities in Canada. We mourn the loss of the children whose lives were taken by the same colonial system that continues to impact Indigenous peoples in Canada today.

A letter from Rachel Mishenene, Executive Director, Indigenous Programs

The travesty of the Indian Residential Schools in Canada continues to impact the lives of many First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, including the survivors of this system, and their loved ones who have also been impacted through the intergenerational traumas. The intent of the residential school system had one mission – to forcibly assimilate Indigenous peoples into mainstream society through the eradication of their cultural identity, and everything entailed with that.

As an Indigenous person, I know that many others who are direct descendants of those who attended these schools, and survivors who are heartbroken and angry. It’s emotionally painful for all. Right To Play works directly with Indigenous peoples who are impacted by these findings and my heart goes out to each of them.

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to connect with my loved ones to talk about this and share our tears. This news is a direct hit to the heart and spirit of our identities, because of our shared experiences with the schools. For so many families, there is the unknowing and the heartbreak of having their children forcibly removed without consent and the children who, in many cases, never returned home. Many families never received any explanation or a proper closure. As a parent, I am reminded that my child and our children today could have been direct victims of this school system. They are living proof of our collective strength as Indigenous people. I’ve always believed that what impacts one Indigenous group in Canada impacts us all because of our shared connection to our cultures, lands, and relationship with the Crown.

This moment is a reminder of how this system continues to impact Indigenous peoples, and how the Crown and the Church use(d) their power to create an inequitable state of being between our nations, and to corrupt family and cultural connections. Healing is a lifelong journey for everyone, especially for the families that have attended or lost connection with their children because of the government or church-run schools.

I have always held in my heart, that my work and life-long responsibility will always be for my people and our children. Reconciliation, since I’ve come to know this word, requires action on all our part. We have so much work to do to address these devastating inequities. On behalf of my team at Right To Play, I would like to express our deepest and most sincere condolences to the families impacted by this in British Columbia, and to all my relations. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all.

Rachel Mishenene

Executive Director, Indigenous Programs

Support Lines

Below are available support lines for anyone affected by the lingering effects of residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports.

The Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-721-0066.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. Access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

Within B.C., the KUU-US Crisis Line Society provides a First Nations and Indigenous-specific crisis line available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It's toll-free and can be reached at 1-800-588-8717 or online.