All municipal and regional flags were lowered to half-mast on Monday as the entire Niagara region honoured the discovery of 215 children’s remains on a residential school campus in Kamloops, B.C.
“We all decided right away that this was something that the Niagara region and the 12 municipalities must do,” Lord Mayor Betty Disero said in an interview.
The flags will remain at half-mast for 215 hours, one hour for each of the 215 bodies found. The flags will be lowered until June 9 in NOTL.
“It was devastating news and an extremely sad, sad chapter in our history,” Niagara regional chair Jim Bradley told The Lake Report.
Bradley spoke of the dark side of Canadian history that tragedies like the residential school system represent.
“We have to look back on our history and identify those areas which have not been a kindness. It’s a devastating discovery for the Indigenous community in Canada,” Bradley said.
Bradley and the 12 municipal mayors released a joint statement on Monday addressing the deaths.
“The discovery of this mass grave is a stark reminder of the devastating legacy that the Canadian residential school system continues to have on Indigenous people across the country,” the statement read.
“We must never forget that residential schools forcefully removed Indigenous children from their families, robbed them of their culture, and exposed many of them to physical, mental and sexual abuse.”
The announcement acknowledged that admitting to these wrongdoings is only the first step in reconciliation and reiterated a commitment to meaningful action by working with Niagara Indigenous leaders to address specific concerns.
The Niagara politicians joined a growing chorus calling for the federal government to implement a national day of mourning to ensure the continuing tragedy of the residential school system is not forgotten.