Canada waved its flags at half mast on Sunday in mourning after the discovery of the remains of 215 Aboriginal children on the site of a former boarding school in British Columbia.
“To honor the 215 children who lost their lives in the former Kamloops boarding school and the indigenous children who never returned home, the survivors and their families, I have requested that the flags of the Peace Tower (in Ottawa) and of federal buildings fly at half mast,” announced Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Twitter. Several municipalities, including the economic metropolis of Toronto, also announced their intention to do the same.
The discovery of the remains of 215 children, “some of whom were only three years old,” has raised strong emotions in Canada and, in particular, in indigenous communities. The remains were located by an expert who used a geradar at the site of a former residential school near Kamloops, British Columbia, which had been managed by the Catholic Church.
These institutions, created more than a century ago, were designed to remove Aboriginal children from their communities and assimilate them into the dominant culture. Some 150,000 Amerindian, mestizo and Inuit children were forcibly recruited for more than 130 boarding schools across the country, where they were removed from their families, their language and their culture.
A national commission of inquiry called the system “cultural genocide.” “I have already said that the internees were a genocide of our people. This is another example,” Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde told CTV on Sunday.