The community of Jasper came together to have a candlelight vigil on June 2 in honor of the 215 children whose remains were discovered buried at the Kamloops residential school.
Centennial Park was filled with both young and old members of the community in support of the families that were affected by this tragedy.
“It fills my heart to see so many of my community members here in Jasper come to support us today and to honour the children that were lost in the Kamloops residential school and the survivors of other residential schools around the country,” said Theresa Westhaver, a seventh-generation Secwépemc and a long-time resident.
During the candlelight vigil, a moment of silence was held. The community participated in a round dance while they listened to some songs that were sung around them. They also got the chance to be smudged as they arrived and took their places around the circle.
In light of the discovery in Kamloops, the Municipality of Jasper flew flags at half-mast for 215 hours.
“Jasper is located in Treaty 6 and 8 territories within the traditional lands of the Dane-zaa, Nêhiyawak, Anishinaabe, Secwépemc, Nakota, and Métis Nations,” said Mayor Richard Ireland in a statement.
“On behalf of Municipal Council and the entire community, I want to send our sympathy to the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation and to all First Nations during such a heartbreaking time.”
“We are taking time today to think about the devastating impacts of the Canadian residential school system and the trauma that system has caused and continues to cause to so many families,” the municipality added in the statement.
“We think about and acknowledge this tragedy not to absolve ourselves of our responsibility to meaningfully address the ongoing colonization of Indigenous people and lands, but to challenge ourselves by committing to dismantle systems that continue to oppress and harm Indigenous people to this day.”
The National Indian Residential School Survivor Support line provides support for former students and those affected. Emotional and crisis referral services can be accessed by calling the 24-hour national crisis line at 1-866-925-4419.
Locally, Community Outreach Services offers confidential, non-judgmental support and referral, Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Call 780-852-2100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Ali Howat, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh