Chilliwack has joined municipalities across the province that are lowering their flags to half mast, in remembrance of the 215 children found buried at an old residential school site in Kamloops.
The discovery was made last week, and in response, municipalities have been lowering their flags, the BC Teachers’ Federation is organizing an impromptu Orange Shirt Day, and displays of shoes are being made in prominent places like the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Mayor Ken Popove said he reached out to staff to have the flags lowered, in keeping with other communities doing the same.
“It’s just a terrible thing,” he said of the discovery. “I just can’t imagine how this could have happened, and now I’m curious about the rest of the schools, too.”
He said he’s been working toward reconciliation locally between First Nations bands and the city, but said it’s a “long road.”
“It’s a challenge,” he said. “But this part of our history.”
Sunday morning, city staff was busy going around to all city properties with flags, including Evergreen Hall, municipal hall, all of the firehalls and various parks and recreation sites. At the same time, flags were being lowered at federal buildings and the BC Legislature.
The Kamloops residential school operated between 1890 and 1969. The federal government took over the facility’s operation from the Catholic Church and ran it as a day school until it closed in 1978. Survivors have been speaking up about life at the school, and the disappearance of children while they lived there.
National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419.
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