That is the word Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Lorne Doerkson used to describe the remains found of 215 children buried at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
“The hurt is massive and is going to be very significant throughout our riding and our province and our country,” said Doerkson, who was one of the only local non-Indigenous politicians who attended a ceremony hosted at Lake City Secondary Williams Lake Campus field by Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) Friday, May 28, the day after the news of the burial site broke.
“It is going to take a real, significant genuine commitment to get through this process.”
School District 27 offered its condolences on Friday with a Facebook post, and trustee Mary Forbes attended the LCSS ceremony. SD27 also lowered the Canadian flag at the district office at half-mast until further notice and later encouraged students and staff to wear orange shirts on Monday, May 31.
On Saturday, May 29, Coun. Craig Smith asked the city to lower the flags outside city hall to half mast to honour the children found buried. The flags were to remain at half-mast for 215 hours — one hour for every lost child.
During the Tuesday evening committee of the whole meeting, Mayor Walt Cobb acknowledged the tragic news.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and the communities affected by this painful discovery,” Cobb said. “It’s unbelievable.”
Later in the meeting, Coun. Jason Ryll called on the city to follow through with concrete actions.
“I’m afraid that mourning or thoughts and prayers are now no longer enough,” Ryll said, noting the world wants to know what governments are doing to address the issue and that city council has a responsibility at a local level.
He asked Mayor Walt Cobb to write a letter to the prime minister supporting the call to provide all necessary funding and support for all residential school sites in Canada to be expertly examined under the guidance of local First Nations and knowledge keepers to begin to identify the thousands of children that are unaccounted for and attempt to bring them home for their families and their traditional territories.
Ryll also asked staff to co-ordinate a council-to-council meeting with local area First Nations to discuss how everyone moves forward together and what role the city can play in directing senior levels of government toward reconciliation, such as those set out in the truth and reconciliation commission.
His recommendations were all approved by council.
Almost a year ago, city council came under fire with WLFN calling for the resignation of Coun. Marnie Brenner because of comments she made during a council meeting about there “are always two sides” to reconciliation and not everyone had a negative experience at residential school.
She subsequently apologized.
On Tuesday, June 1, Brenner, who is First Nations and a nurse, revisited her apology and said she was horrified to think that any of the elders she has worked with over the last 20 years would feel she had disrespected them or their experiences.
“For that I am sorry,” she said.
Doerkson said Tuesday evening he hoped there is a way through to forgiveness.