Statement: Kamloops Residential School

Our governing body the Association of Neighbourhood Houses of BC has shared their statement on their website HERE.

To our West End Neighbours and Colleagues:

On behalf of Gordon House, I want to acknowledge the recent discovery of a mass grave of Indigenous children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

215 children were reported found. This number was an estimate. An updated, likely higher number is expected in the coming weeks. Further discoveries across Canada should be anticipated in coming weeks, months and years.

Residential schools were an assault on the most fundamental principles of humanity. They are formally considered an institution of genocide. They targeted Indigenous peoples by attempting to sever children’s connection with their communities.

And they operated before our own eyes, in plain daylight.

Why didn’t we see what was happening?

I have sought to understand Gordon House’s response to that question. The Association of Neighbourhood Houses of British Columbia – Gordon House included – is committed to supporting families and social justice. We have been in operation for over 125 years. How could an organization with those two commitments fail to notice and speak out about the operation of residential schools?

The ongoing work to answer that question has highlighted numerous indicators of colonial and racist thinking within our own history and movement. It is imperative that we uproot and eliminate any remnants of that thinking in our professional and personal practice, otherwise, we may be blind to present injustices occurring right now.

This journey is not unique to Gordon House. We must look at this together as a community. To start, Gordon House commits to:

1. Complete an audit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ 231 Calls to Justice, and create an organizational Action Plan for any relevant calls.

2. Work with Indigenous and non-Indigenous colleagues to facilitate community dialogue and learning in the West End, with focus on the following topics:

a. A deeper understanding of what it means to be on unceded Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh territory, including what responsibilities we carry while on this territory;

b. Colonialism and anti-Indigenous racism in Canada, both historically and as it manifests today, and how to actively resist those systems today;

c. Allying alongside Indigenous-led movements locally and nationally.

This is where we start, not where we end. All neighbours and colleagues are invited to participate in the conversation. Email if you’d like to get involved.

Our hearts are with survivors and intergenerational survivors of residential schools. Our commitment is to do everything now and into the future to ensure that this atrocious period of Canadian history is finally brought to a close, and that the impact of residential schools is known and never forgotten.

Siobhan Powlowski