CUPE BC President Karen Ranalletta today issued the following statement on behalf of the CUPE BC Executive Board.
The discovery last week of a mass burial site containing the bodies of 215 children at the former Kamloops Residential School is a terrible but important reminder that Canada’s racist and genocidal approach to First Nations peoples is not a relic of a distant past. The residential school system, which was designed to strip Indigenous children from their families, and then eliminate their language, culture and history, continued to operate until 1996.
Our hearts go out to all survivors of the residential school system, and particularly to members of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, on whose unceded territory the school operated until 1978. To read the statement from the Office of the Chief, click here.
We join with those urging donations to the Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society here.
CUPE BC is urging all local governments across the province to lower flags to half-mast as an act of mourning and solidarity. We also join the BCTF in urging school boards to lower flags to half-mast at all schools in B.C., and we’re calling on all educators, support staff and students to wear orange from May 31 – June 4 as a form of reconciliation with Indigenous people. We encourage all members, regardless of sector, to wear orange as well.
We also urge all employers, regardless of whether in the public or private sectors to demonstrate their solidarity with survivors—if your workplace or business displays a flag, please lower it to half-mast.
To Indigenous CUPE members: we can only imagine the pain and trauma this news has caused, or reawakened. If you need help, the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419.
CUPE BC is committed to reconciliation with Indigenous people, and we encourage everyone to learn more about the horrific residential school system in Canada. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has excellent resources here. Specific information about the Missing Children and Burial Information can be found in the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation section 71-76.
Finally, non-Indigenous members in particular are encouraged to begin—or to continue—taking steps toward reconciliation. Indigenous people whose children were stolen want proper burials for their children; bring the children home.