Toronto City Hall flag lowered to half-mast in memory of Kamloops residential school victims

The City of Toronto lowered the Canadian flag outside of City Hall Sunday in memory of the Kamloops residential school victims.


The City of Toronto lowered the Canadian flag outside of City Hall Sunday in memory of the Kamloops residential school victims.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said he spoke with the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation Chief Stacey Laforme, who asked that the ceremonial flags be lowered.

“Today, the City’s flags are being lowered in memory of the 215 children whose bodies have been discovered,” Tory said in a tweet Sunday. “The flags will remain lowered for nine days — 215 hours to represent each life.”

The Toronto sign will also be dimmed to recognize the lives lost, he added.

A candlelight vigil was held Sunday night at Nathan Philips Square where 215 candles were lit in memory of the Native children found at the residential school site in Kamloops. Many in attendance wore orange shirts, a symbol recognizing the experience Indigenous peoples endured in residential schools.

“Their lives were taken for no reason,” said community member Danielle Migwans. “We need to recognize that this is an issue that needs to be really acknowledged and not just written down on paper.”

Many displayed signs or wore shirts that read “Every Child Matters,” and those in attendance said part of the vigil was to provide spiritual healing and closure through prayer, song and dance for the community, the families and for the 215 children.

“For generation after generation of children who survived these residential schools, they were unable speak about it because it was just too painful,” said Westwind Evening of the Matriarchal Circle of Toronto. “And it was only when we had the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and inquiry that they started to tell their stories.”

Both Mississauga mayor Bonnnie Crombie and Brampton mayor Patrick Brown have also asked that flags be lowered on their respective municipal buildings.

Trudeau asks for flags to be lowered to honour Kamloops residential school children 

Flags on federal buildings should be flown at half-mast in honour of the 215 children whose remains were found at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Sunday.

Trudeau said on social media his request includes the Peace Tower flag, and comes as communities across the country dedicate tributes to the children. Some called for a national day of mourning.

“To honour the 215 children whose lives were taken at the former Kamloops residential school and all Indigenous children who never made it home, the survivors, and their families, I have asked that the Peace Tower flag and flags on all federal buildings be flown at half-mast,” Trudeau said in a statement.

The children’s remains were located using ground-penetrating radar last weekend at the site in British Columbia’s Interior.

Trudeau’s flag call came as plans were being made to identify and return home the remains. The effort could involve the B.C. Coroners Service, the Royal B.C. Museum and forensics experts, Indigenous leaders have said.

Earlier this week, Chief Rosanne Casimir, of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation in British Columbia, said the discovery of the children, some as young as three years old, is an “unthinkable loss that was spoken about but never documented” at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

She said more bodies might be found because there were more areas to search on the grounds.

The Kamloops residential school operated between 1890 and 1969. The federal government took over the facility’ from the Catholic Church and ran it as a day school until it closed in 1978.

The National Truth and Reconciliation Commission has records of at least 51 children dying at the school between 1915 and 1963.

The Chief of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, R. Stacey LaForme, wrote Trudeau on Saturday to ask the government to lower the flags and declare a national day of mourning.

“There is a lot more to be done but first and foremost, we need to do this to show love and respect to the 215 children, all of the children, and their families,” LaForme said in a statement. “This should be a moment that the country never forgets.”

Sol Mamakwa, an Indigenous NDP legislator who represents the Ontario riding of Kiiwetinoong, called on the province and Canadian government to work with all First Nations to look for remains at other defunct residential schools.

“It is a great open secret that our children lie on the properties of the former schools _ an open secret that Canadians can no longer look away from,” Mamakwa said in a statement. “In keeping with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Missing Children Projects, every school site must be searched for the graves of our ancestors.”

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