Our Lakehead University community extends its deepest condolences to the Indigenous peoples of Canada in the wake of the Cowessess First Nation's discovery of 751 unmarked graves at the site of a former residential school in Saskatchewan.
All Canadians are being called upon to embark on a long journey of restitution and reconciliation.
Thousands of children, some already identified through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's work and more being located in unmarked graves at Indian Residential Schools across Canada, have lifted the veil on the atrocities of our past and we are being called to account as a country.
Our institution has committed to stand for the truth and our support will not falter in these dark days, nor in the days ahead. We will move forward in unity and continue to provide an education that includes the history of Indian Residential Schools, Indian Hospitals, and the more recent impacts of Child Welfare and the justice system on Indigenous peoples.
We established an Indigenous Chair for Truth and Reconciliation in 2016 because we are committed to responding to the 94 Calls to Action and to the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
As our Chair has noted, "Indigenous peoples are not shocked. They have always known about the children. They just were not listened to or believed." Now it is incumbent on Canada to right the wrongs that have been ignored for far too long.
As of today, we know that over 7,000 children never returned home alive from the Indian Residential Schools, and we are told there will be more.
As our Vice-Provost of Indigenous Initiatives has reminded us, "Over 150,000 children were pulled from their families and sent to residential schools, and over 50% never returned to their homes or died from tuberculosis and injuries shortly after being sent home."
Lakehead University stands with the Indigenous peoples of Canada, and is committed to providing support for counselling, and whatever our students, faculty, and staff may need as they grieve these losses and contemplate the grim reminder that we have not completed, nor corrected, the story on Indigenous-Settler relations.
The flags at Lakehead University will be lowered for the rest of National Indigenous History Month in memory of those who have been found and for those we will find.
Dr. Moira McPherson
President and Vice-Chancellor