More symbols are being erected in Kamloops to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been found in an unmarked burial site at a former residential school.
Small red dresses were hung from crosses along the side of Highway 5 in tribute to the lives lost.
Red dresses have become a symbol and a way to honour the more than 1,000 Indigenous women and girls who have gone missing or been murdered in the last three decades.
In other parts of the community, people have put flowers and children’s shoes at the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School.
Similar memorials and vigils have now been held across the country.
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Amid growing calls for answers that led to the search and the discovery of the remains, Indigenous leaders and community members met privately on Tuesday asking for space to grieve.
“They’re feeling like they need more, more of the healing process to occur,” Deidre Sellars, a Secwépemc Nation member told Global News.
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Healing ceremonies are still taking place in the Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc community and leaders say their children are still being discriminated against with inadequate child welfare services on reserves and a failure to properly implement Jordan’s Principle.
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This federal program was set up to help First Nations children living in Canada access the products, services and supports they need.
“Think about that, a three, four, five, six-year-old, think about that — what they did to our people. Our ancestors, our grandparents, and our parents and so that system has expanded into Section 88 of the Indian Act, the laws of general application, provincial laws, child welfare systems,” Splatsin Kukpi7 Wayne Christian, tribal chief with Secwepemc ancestry told Global News.
Addressing those issues is one of the top recommended actions from the Truth and Reconciliation Report, released more than five years ago.
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“Those sections that apply to the residential school are still in there,” Christian said. “Still part of the system. Section 88 of the provincial laws for child welfare removal is there, it’s still there.
“Why the hell is it still there?”
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It is hoped that the discovery in Kamloops will be the catalyst for understanding the effects of multiple generations of severed family ties and cultural linkages being felt more than a century later.
Anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience can access this 24-hour, toll-free and confidential National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.
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