Monday evening, with flags at half mast across Canada, Border City residents came out to City Hall to join in the national outpouring of grief following the discovery of the remains of 215 children at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
Dressed in orange, residents listened to presentations and drumming led by the local First Nations community. Many of the presenters have links to Onion Lake, where earlier in the day, there was a memorial walk to allow the anguish that has gripped the nation to continue to ripple across the land.
With a steady stream from the setting sun peering through the spruce trees at the City Hall grounds, the Lloydminster community started to face the feelings of being removed from your family as a child and not being able to see your relatives for years on end.
Onion Lake Cree Nation Council member Leon Whitstone led the proceedings. He said he was honoured by the turnout and community support. It surprised him as it shows a lot of people care about what happened in B.C.
Whitstone says people are shocked. He expressed his own sorrow for the kids at the residential school, whom he said never had a life. He supports the call from the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations to use radar technology to conduct forensic examination of undocumented burial sites at residential schools in Saskatchewan. He is fearful of what this might reveal.
Whitstone is keen to promote a better future for all First Nations people.
“You can’t erase what happened to our First Nations people in the past. What we can do is promote a better future for our First Nations people. The best way we can is working together with the Federal government.”
Whitstone sees this as the prime way to deal with the housing issues and numerous other concerns affecting First Nations communities as they seek to improve their standard of living.
Whitstone admits that kids will be asking their parents about what has happened. He says to parents to support the children in seeking the answers.
“A lot of children are going to ask questions about this. You need to sit them down and make them understand the best way of what happened, what transpired in the past and what we are trying to seek for the future of our kids. we don’t actually have the right answers, but we try to do our best to help them out and support them the best way we can.”
The memorial concluded with a candlelight ceremony as residents observed 215 seconds of silence in memory of the 215 children who were buried at the mass gravesite of the former Kamloops residential school.