SWLSB flags kept at half-mast for 215 hours in memory of Indigenous victims

Following the devastating discovery of 215 Indigenous children buried on the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board (SWLSB) kept its flags lowered to half-mast at all schools, centres and at head office in Rosemère since June 2.

The flags were flying at half-mast until June 11, for a total of 215 hours, in memory of each life lost, the SWLSB said in a statement.

“Some of the children were as young as 3 years old,” said Paolo Galati, chairperson of the SWLSB. “It’s hard to believe and to understand. It’s even harder to explain to our children the atrocity these children went through.

“This tragedy has caused the issue of residential schools to resurface, as well as the wounds from this genocide towards Indigenous people. Thousands and thousands of children died in residential schools.

“As Canadians, as a school board, as educators, as parents, as caregivers, we have a critical role in facing the truth, educating ourselves and teaching our youth about First Nations in Canada, about Truth and Reconciliation.”

In 2018, the SWLSB established a First Nations, Métis and Inuit Committee (FNMI Committee) to represent the school board’s interests in Aboriginal education.

The mandate of the committee is to ensure integration of First Nations awareness into the educational process, on the premise that with better education there is better understanding and improved acceptance.

The SWLSB says the FNMI Committee which is part of the SWLSB’s Pedagogical Services Department, will continue to find ways to ensure that the school board can support, reach out and assist its schools and centres so that everyone gains a better understanding about Indigenous peoples’ culture and history.

“Our school board is located on the territory of the Kanien’keeha:ka Mohawk nation and we also have students of Indigenous culture within our schools and centres,” added Galati. “It is crucial for us to reach out to these communities and continue building relationships.”