Sen. Plett shares sympathies with Indigenous Communities after residential school graves found in Kamloops

 June 1, 2021 (Ottawa, ON) - The Honourable Don Plett, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, issued the following statement:

Honourable senators, today I also rise to speak on the horrific tragedy of finding 215 children’s bodies who died at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. These were children, colleagues. Two hundred and fifteen precious lives cut far too short. All human lives have intrinsic value, and the finding of these 215 bodies devastates me. It devastates me that residential schools are a very real and very dark part of our country’s history, and it should devastate us all.

I will never truly understand the pain that families impacted by, and the survivors of, residential schools have gone through.

This discovery reminds us that our collective reckoning with the past is an ongoing process. Truth must not be sought once but persistently. To me, former prime minister Stephen Harper’s formal apology to residential school survivors in 2008 was a crucial first step in laying the groundwork for ongoing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

Then, in 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report evidenced what Indigenous peoples already knew — that thousands of Indigenous children’s lives were lost through malnutrition, disease and abuse in Canada’s residential schools.

The number of children who died at Canadian residential schools could be as high as 6,000, but the quantification of these deaths does not make the forgotten graves in Kamloops any less tragic. The Kamloops finding is a tragedy that is troubling to all Canadians at this time, as it resurfaces pain for those who have been directly impacted by residential schools.

As we seek the truth of our past, we cannot let our hope for reconciliation fade. We must continue to face the pain of our collective history. We owe it to the families who have lost children through residential schools and to the school survivors to keep pursuing and working together to foster renewed hope for a better future.

On behalf of the opposition in the Senate, I wish to offer our condolences, thoughts and prayers to the Indigenous peoples, families and communities who are suffering and mourning. I join all colleagues in this chamber in a moment of silence to mourn the lives and the deaths of 215 children.

Let us take a moment to honour them, and may our gesture of respect offer some comfort in these difficult times. Thank you.


Senator Plett's speech can also be found here.

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