Approximately 100 people gathered in Memorial Peace Park in Maple Ridge on a drizzly Sunday afternoon to show support for the Katzie First Nation as they took part in a mourning/ remembrance ceremony in honour of the 215 children found buried at the former site of the Kamloops residential school.
The park’s bandstand was garlanded with 215 colourful paper cut-outs of t-shirts, and its railings were lined with stuffed toys, blankets, and kids shoes.
Barely a murmur escaped the crowd. A solemn song was sung to start the memorial before speeches were given.
Coun. Ahmed Yousef, who helped organize the event, was visibly distraught as he gave his opening remarks.
“We can do better,” he said. “Canada has a reputation around the world of being fair and forthright. Now is the time for some introspection.”
Katzie Chief Grace George spoke slowly and deliberately.
“Everyone on this stage knows someone who went to a residential school,” she said. Her father was forced to attend one in Mission. She told the crowd he escaped three times, following the train tracks home.
The final time he was recaptured he was sent to Sechelt, where he spent six years.
Her husband, Damian George spoke of the generational trauma suffered by First Nation people because of residential schools.
“I have five of my own children. And I couldn’t imagine my grandchildren being taken away. But it was the law. It was the law.”
Ground-penetrating radar confirmed that a mass grave on the property of the former residential school in Kamloops contained the bodies of 215 children, some as young as three.
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