Tomorrow, September 30, 2023, marks our third annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. It is a step towards understanding a shameful and horrific piece of our Canadian history that we certainly weren’t taught about in grade school. And, hopefully, a genuine attempt at reconciliation.
The Residential Schools were a system of boarding schools that was funded by the Canadian government and administered by “Christian churches”. Their purpose was to isolate indigenous children from their families to make it easier to assimilate them into the favoured Canadian culture.
Imagine a young child torn from their family and home. Imagine that child deprived of their own language and culture. Imagine that child suffering terrible conditions – malnutrition, disease, humiliation, physical and sexual abuse. Now imagine that child was your own. This is the heartache faced by indigenous families.
The Missing Children Project documents the deaths and the burial places of children who died while attending the schools. To date, more than 4,100 children who died while attending a residential school have been identified. In May of 2021 it was reported that ground-penetrating radar had identified what was believed to be burial sites of 215 children at a former Kamloops Residential School in BC.
The Truth and Reconciliation Community Bobcaygeon (TRCB) decided to commemorate these lives, as well as many thousands more, with a “215+ Taken” art installation.
River stones were painted orange in the spirit of the “Every Child Matters” orange t-shirt campaign. The orange stones were then painted with a heart, each stone representing a child “one who walked on this Earth, loved, played, one who had a long life ahead of them, a life that was taken early.” Then the stones were numbered from 1 to 215.
Each time I pass these stones, where they sit along the wall of the Bobcaygeon Library property, my heart aches for all of the children who endured that system. And for those who died. I feel great sadness for their families. And, as a nation, I hope we feel regret, and continue down a road of meaningful reconciliation.