Several public buildings in Prince George, B.C., simultaneously raised the new flag of the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation last week, featuring an orange ribbon in the lower right corner in remembrance of the children who never came home from residential schools.
During a ceremony at Prince George City Hall, Lheidli T'enneh artist Kym Gouchie — whose parents both survived residential schools — folded the old Lheidli T'enneh flag after it was taken down and watched as the new flag was lifted to the top of the pole.
"It was really beautiful to see that nice, bright, vibrant Lheidli flag with this beautiful orange ribbon blowing up there in the sky with the rest of our provincial and federal flags," Gouchie said.
The Jan. 4 ceremony marked 215 days since the old flag was lowered to half-mast in remembrance of the children whose remains were found near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
The new flag was raised to full height at five public buildings, including the RCMP Prince George detachment office, the regional district office, the College of New Caledonia and the University of Northern British Columbia, according to a statement from the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation.
Lheidli T'enneh Coun. Joshua Seymour — who co-hosted the city hall ceremony — says it was bittersweet watching the new flag go up while thinking of his grandfather's trauma at the former Lejac Indian Residential School near Fraser Lake, B.C.
"When we hear about the abuses on one of the [residential school] students … it's impactful for me to think that my grandfather, who attended Lejac, had endured this type of abuse as a child. So it affects everybody in one way or another," he told host Carolina de Ryk on CBC's Daybreak North.
WATCH | New Lheidli T'enneh flag raised at Prince George City Hall
Seymour says he hopes people pay more attention to Canada's residential school history.
Mayor Lyn Hall, who also co-hosted the ceremony, says the city is committed to reconciliation.
"The raising of the flag to full-mast was an indication that we have recognized that horrific finding in Kamloops, and now we're on a journey of learning," Hall said. "We're on a journey of dealing with the emotional impact to many people across the country — not just First Nations, [but] many people other than First Nations have been impacted as well."
Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.