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Remains of Indigenous Children Found at Kamloops Indian Residential School

Thank you to Senator Rob Black and to Senator Martin for offering their space today. Honourable senators, this is an intergenerational statement.

A mass grave of children — sons, daughters, siblings, grandchildren, potential leaders and change agents — a genocide of children who were never given the opportunity to live their lives, simply because they were Indian. Their connection to family, to their culture, their hopes and dreams for their futures all stolen, and by whom? Does this continue today?

These were 215 beautiful, innocent, trusting little spirits that believed in their hearts that it would all work out. They missed their families and never understood how they came to be where they were.

One of my most persistent emotions in residential school was overwhelming loneliness and the bewildering feeling of abandonment. It was so unlike my family. I came to realize that abandonment by my parents was not the issue but that I was abandoned by the system — whether it was the church or the government who initiated and perpetuated the kidnappings.

This is Canada.

Our hearts are broken. Canada is broken.

As a child who went to residential school at the age of five, I want to send a message to the parents and all the relatives. I know you loved me. I never let you go. You were always in my thoughts, in my heart, in my tears and in my being. How could you not be? I know you didn’t let me go and that you loved me and carried me with you. Don’t feel guilty for what is not yours to carry. You have found me and I am so glad you never gave up. Know that I always loved you and still love you as only a child could. Remember my laughter, my spirit, my love of life, my love of stories and ceremonies, for that was always the part of you that I loved and carried close to me.

Remember to pass on the beautiful parts of our culture, because that is something they could never take away from us. Remember, they can never take away our love for each other.

Sending love and peace to the 215 innocent and trusting souls and their families, to the Kamloops First Nation, to the former students of residential schools, to our families and to the specialists who discovered the remains.

Thank you. Kinanâskomitin.

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