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Building Bridges by Cheryl Dizon-Reynante    

This Canada Day the mourning goes on

by Cheryl Dizon-Reynante


This Canada Day, 2021, we acknowledge the mourning that is happening across the country. On May 27, the remains of 215 children were found buried at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, on Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation. Weeks later, the remains in 751 unmarked graves were discovered near the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School.

It is estimated that over 150,000 children attended residential schools in Canada from the 1830s until 1997 when the last school closed. The school system removed children from their families and took away their culture and identity. They were not permitted to speak in their language, and were denied love, affection, food, safety and rights. Many children died and their deaths were undocumented and unacknowledged. Their bodies were often not returned home.

Indigenous people have mourned for decades, and these recent events have reopened their wounds. Across Canada and around the globe, many have felt sadness and anger.

Steps towards healing include acknowledging what happened and sharing in their despair and grief.

The sorrow is captured in the poem by Indigenous educator, scholar, and poet Tasha Spillett, titled “215.”


215 children.
Sacred bundles, waiting restlessly.
And the others? we have
to find the others.
Orange is the colour
of amber
the alert is long past due.


In the early morning I hear
my daughter’s small cry
I go to her.
Today is the day after and it
feels like a privilege to hold
her in my arms
my own baby (no one will take
her from my arms).
She’s had a bad dream.


It’s okay my girl, I am here.
Her heart slows to a steady pace.
The nightmare fades away.
There are no monsters here.
My heart slows to a steady pace.


Flags lowered.
Now in reach
low enough to rip down
toss them into a pit where
promises and treaties rest
in pieces between scattered
baby bones.
Orange is the colour of flames
our hearts are the embers.
Let the lowered flags burn.


You asked for their stories.
And they spoke them.
You heard but you did not listen.
They told you where to find
the children.
You heard but you did not look.


Cheryl Dizon-Reynante is a licensed therapist with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association.

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