Kim Grantham is heartbroken that so many unmarked graves of Indigenous children are being discovered at former residential school sites in Canada.
Grantham, who is from Shawnigan Lake, was among more than 200 people who participated in the Every Child Matters March on June 25 in Mill Bay in honour of the many children who died while attending the schools.
“I’m a human being and I want to learn what happened at these schools,” said Grantham with a breaking voice as the participants prepared to begin their long march along Mill Bay Road in the hot summer sun to the Trans Canada Highway.
“This was not taught to me while I was in school. I couldn’t stay home when I heard about this march. I want to do whatever I can to to help the First Nations get through this and get the word out there as to exactly what happened.”
The remains of 215 Indigenous children were found buried on the grounds of a one-time residential school in Kamloops last month, and another 751 were recently discovered in unmarked graves at the site of a former residential school in Saskatchewan.
Paul Harry, a member of Malahat First Nation who was the lead organizer of the march, said the tragedy of the residential school students impacts everyone, not just First Nations.
“We’re not going to remain silent about this anymore,” he said.
“We want an apology from the Roman Catholic Church for what they did to our peoples. The Sisters of St. Ann agreeing to open their archives is a good first step.”
The Royal B.C. Museum has signed a memorandum of agreement with the Sisters of St. Ann, which ran four residential schools in canada, including the one at Kamloops, to provide access to the religious order’s archives.
It’s believed the historical records kept in the archives could help to identify the children and locate the remains of other Indigenous children at the schools.
Jack Knowles, who came from Victoria to take part in the march, said his grandmother and some of his uncles went to residential schools and, unlike those found in the graves, were fortunate enough to survive the experience.
“I understand what happened at these places and I sympathize with all members of the First Nations who lost people at these schools,” he said.
“I’m trying to do everything I can to bring awareness to what occurred. I want to educate the public so they can understand the perspective of the First Nations.”
Mill Bay’s Ashley Gimbel said she knows a lot of Indigenous people in her community and the residential schools were a real trauma that has not healed for those that attended them.
“For a lot of the First Nations, it’s a slap in the face that they were not listened to sooner,” she said.
“I’ve written my MLA and MP to ask for funding for more exploration at these school sites to find more unmarked graves. More of these babies need to be found and finally brought home.”