Truth and Reconciliation, and the path forward
…and a small voice, whispers, “They found us.”
On May 27, 2021, the residential school system - a shameful act in Canada - was once again brought into National focus. The bodies of 215 children, some as young as 3, were uncovered at the former site of the Kamloops Residential School, in British Columbia. Canada’s largest residential school, which operated under the auspices of the Catholic Church from 1890 until 1969, only officially closed in 1978.
Residential schools operated in Canada for over 160 years. Every province and territory in Canada, with the exception of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland, was home to federally funded and church-run schools. Approximately 150,000 Indigenous children were removed from their communities and families, often by force, and housed in residential schools where the goal was not to educate, but to rather “solve the Indian problem.” The policy on residential schools was a genocidal act towards Indigenous Peoples that lasted decades. The last residential school to close was in Saskatchewan in 1996. The intergenerational trauma created by these schools still affects communities today. The legacy of the systems that created the schools is still prevalent within Canadian society in the forms of anti-Indigenous racism and systemic/institutional oppression.
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released a report detailing the horrific acts of violence and trauma Indigenous children suffered at the hands of those running and operating residential schools, including those who lived at the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School in Nova Scotia. A total of 94 Calls to Action were issued urging all levels of government, and all of Canada, to work together to change policies and programs to help repair the harm caused by residential schools and start on the path towards reconciliation.
NSCC has become a signatory to the Colleges and Institutes Canada Indigenous Education Protocol, which lays out 7 commitments to guide our work and move toward reconciliation. NSCC is in the process of finalizing the College’s first Indigenous Education Framework that will further guide our commitment to student success and enhance our relationship with Mi’kmaw communities and Indigenous organizations. In addition, the College has created safe spaces for Indigenous employees through the creation of an Indigenous Employee Resource Network, and a similar space for Indigenous students with the Indigenous Student Affinity Group. The Joint Working Committee consists of Indigenous Organizations, community members, and NSCC employees and acts as an advisory committee to help strengthen NSCC’s commitment to Indigenous Education.
At the NSCC Foundation, we are committed to supporting this important work. Through generous donor support, we are removing barriers to education for Indigenous students through bursaries, sponsor-a-student programs, Elders on Campus programs, entrepreneurial supports, just to name a few. If you want to be part of the solution through education, please reach out and let’s chat.
While we continue to strengthen our relationships and move together on the path of reconciliation, we must not forget our past as a country. We must remember that the intergenerational legacy of residential schools affects survivors and their descendants, and we still need to continue to have conversations in order to heal. There is a firm belief that there are others like those 215 young Indigenous children lost and now uncovered in Kamloops. In the memory of those found and those still lost and unaccounted for, we as a nation need to hear their stories in order to heal.
Senior Advisor, Mi’kmaq and Indigenous Initiatives
Executive Director, NSCC Foundation and Alumni Relations