Letter: Discovery of graves a rude awakening

Not once were the Indigenous people given a choice

Discovery of graves a rude awakening

It seems that lately bad news inundates our newspapers. Not a day goes by without news that shakes us to the bones and thank goodness that once in a while something nice happens, such as the hiker found on Mt. Garibaldi. I’m sure there are more very nice things happening, but the bad ones are often stuck in my mind.

No sooner did I figure out the COVID directives from the Ministry of Health, then a heat wave hit us and sadly some people couldn’t cope with it. Then there was this huge forest fire in Lytton and unexpected floods in many countries across the world. Other natural disasters followed, but were trumped by the news of two successful launchings of aerospace vehicles.

Amid all this, Canada got a rude awakening, when hundreds unmarked graves of Indigenous children were discovered on previous residential school grounds. Most of us were stunned by the news and speculations were flying around as to what caused these children to pass away and why the graves were unmarked.

I came across a letter in the Times Colonist written by somebody who went to a residential school. The gentleman surmised that some of the children succumbed due to the change in diet, childhood illnesses introduced by the Europeans, homesickness and not being able to adjust to the many changes in their young lives. He also suggested that the graves at one time were marked with wooden crosses that deteriorated over the years. One can find this happening at most graveyards where headstones are not commonly used

I’m sure it must have been heartbreaking for the parents and extended families of these children to find out that they were not coming home. Heartbreaking in the first place that these children were taken from their environment and placed far away from anybody and anything they knew; having to get used to a different lifestyle, food, religion, speech and rules.

The government of those days may have thought to do good by the Indigenous people and the churches too may have felt that they did God’s work by “saving” these folks, but not once were the Indigenous people given a choice. I’m not sure that we can hold our current government responsible for these horrendous practices. I can only hope they will learn from these mistakes as they enter into meetings with the chiefs. As for the churches, it’s time for them to stop protecting those who abused their positions of trust and care. We can’t punish those from decades ago, but we can demand that the heads of churches no longer protect the abusers.

I’ll wait for the forensic reports, so I know who these children were and what really happened to them. I will never condone the vandalism done to statues and buildings. I can understand the anger and disgust some people feel, but it is not very conducive to a better relationship if one retaliates. Instead, let’s listen to each other and talk to find ways to support each other with meaningful and long lasting solutions rather than the “band aides” often given so far. Let’s demand accountability from all parties involved in these meetings.

Let’s do this in memory of all the people, regardless of origin, religion, age, gender or station in life, that have fallen between the cracks.

Judy van der Boom

Mill Bay