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Williams Lake – Residential School Discovery


January 28, 2022

On May 31, 2021, I sent a message to the Fleming community regarding the discovery of 215 children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. At that time, we were all reminded of the horrific treatment of Indigenous families in the name of education and colonization.

It is with great sadness, that I am reaching out again today to acknowledge yet another discovery, this time at the St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School, Williams Lake, British Columbia. A press conference was held on January 25, 2022, by Williams Lake First Nation, Chief Willie Sellers, who announced that the remains of 93 individuals have been detected by the ground penetrating radar used in their geographical investigation.

In his response to the shocking discovery last Spring in Kamloops, the Honourable Murray Sinclair spoke of the horrific stories of death and cover up, that even he was unprepared to hear (posted by The Honorable Murray Sinclair on Tuesday, June 1, 2021). We were again reminded of this on September 27 when the Fleming Community virtually met with Dr. John Milloy. Dr. Milloy was responsible for the research of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada but became primarily associated with a project set out to document both dead and missing children. “Although not part of the original mandate, I was asked to find the names and circumstances for every child who died or went missing in residential schools going back to 1879… that proved to be a great challenge, particularly determining where children were buried and marking their graveyards.”

To date, more than 1,800 confirmed or suspected unmarked graves have been identified at former Residential School sites. Resulting from searches in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. There were 139 Federally recognized Residential Schools in Canada, with many more unrecognized. For more information regarding the Legacy of Indian Residential Schools and ways in which we can honour victims, visit the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada website or the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation website.

One small but meaningful ovation that we can all participate in is to wear orange this week, and any time you remember these horrific truths. Fleming College stands side by side with Indigenous communities and is anchored in being a welcoming place for all. Never has it been more important to forge ahead with our policy of Honouring the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We all have a role to play.

Maureen Adamson, President