Our hearts broke when we learned about the 215 children whose remains were found in a mass unmarked grave at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in B.C. This was a devastating discovery, and we cannot imagine the grief Indigenous communities and families are experiencing.
We joined in their mourning by lowering the flags at Burlington City Hall and fire stations for one hour for every child – nine days, ending June 9. We also paused all ceremonial flag raisings until then. The Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation flag has been added to our flag poles.
Our hearts were ripped open once again at the discovery of 751 unmarked graves near the former Marieval Indian Residential School near Regina, Sask. Burlington mourns and stands with the Cowessess First Nation and all Indigenous communities. Flags at Burlington City Hall, City facilities and fire stations, and Burloak Park were lowered for one hour for each child (31 days) until July 26.
On June 1, I joined in a traditional prayer ceremony at Civic Square with our Burlington and Halton Indigenous community members to honour the spirits of the 215 children. We laid shoes to represent these children and all children who attended Canada’s Residential schools. The shoes will remain for the month of June. I invite residents to come any time to your own lay shoes. At the end of the month they will be donated.
The city is also supporting an art installation, A Hope for Healing, by Burlington Indigenous artist Amber Ruthart at Spencer Smith Park June 19-21 — National Indigenous Peoples Day is on June 21. More details to come, but you can participate in advance by donating red clothing/material and shoes (children size 12, adult size 5) that can be dropped off — email firstname.lastname@example.org for locations.
Council is also taking action. Resolutions are coming to Burlington and Halton Regional councils calling the federal government to hold a national day of mourning, search all former residential school sites for additional burial grounds and commit to advancing the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The resolution for our City also asks our own Burlington Council to commit to learning more about local Indigenous history through a workshop, as a first step.
We won’t heal or be whole as a country until we acknowledge the genocide committed against the Indigenous First Nations people in Canada.
We must also acknowledge the ongoing serious impacts on generations of Indigenous people of tearing children away from their families in an effort to destroy their culture. Thousands never returned. We must wholeheartedly commit ourselves to the Calls to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
I’m grateful to all the local Indigenous leaders and community members who met with me this past year to discuss how we can take steps towards meeting the Calls to Action and moving towards true reconciliation.
These are not easy conversations to have, but we must have them.
June is National Indigenous History Month, with National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21. I encourage everyone to devote time to learn more about the history of Canada’s treatment of Indigenous people.
We have opened all of our Burlington Committee and City Council meetings with a Land Acknowledgement since June 2018. I’ve included it below:
Land Acknowledgement for the City of Burlington
Burlington as we know it today is rich in history and modern traditions of many First Nations and the Métis. From the Anishinaabeg to the Haudenosaunee, and the Métis – our lands spanning from Lake Ontario to the Niagara Escarpment are steeped in Indigenous history.
The territory is mutually covered by the Dish with One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement between the Iroquois Confederacy, the Ojibway and other allied Nations to peaceably share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes.
We would like to acknowledge that the land on which we gather is part of the Treaty Lands and Territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit.