Today, Cowessess First Nation announced the discovery of 751 unmarked graves on the grounds of the former Marieval Residential School in Saskatchewan. This comes less than a month after the remains of 215 Indigenous children were discovered at a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia. We recognize that this discovery has re-traumatized Indigenous community members once again and that there are many more unmarked burial sites that have yet to be discovered.

The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of a residential school experience. Support is available at 1-866-925-4419.

The Waterloo Region District School Board, again, acknowledges that the residential school system was systematically introduced by the Canadian government as a way to destroy Indigenous cultures, languages, families and ways of being. As institutions of education, where children ought to be nurtured, validated and cared for, these recent findings are most appalling.

Flags will be flown at half mast tomorrow morning, Friday, June 25 to honour the 751 unknown souls (and counting), their families and the Indigenous communities across this country whose lives have forever been negatively impacted by the imposition of assimilation tactics including the residential school system. Flags will remain lowered through to the end of June.

June is Indigenous History Month. Residential schools are a dark, tragic and real part of the history and ongoing reality of this country we now call Canada, and they continue to impact Indigenous people today. It is essential that we acknowledge what happened, that we remember it, that we speak about it, and that we actively reflect on the roles each of us plays in countering this abhorrent system. Truth must come before reconciliation. Those looking to learn more about the impact of Residential Schools might want to begin by reading the Calls to Action and the Missing Children and Unmarked Burials: Research Report identified by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Please remember that the WRDSB serves many Indigenous students, staff and community members who will be deeply affected by these recent findings.