Thursday, February 22, 2024

Victoria City Hall lowers flag to half-mast after tragic discovery of unmarked graves in Sechelt


The City of Victoria is lowering its Canadian flag that flies above the Douglas Street clocktower to half-mast in solidarity with the shíshálh Nation. 

They recently discovered at least several unmarked gravesites near the site of the former St. Augustine’s Residential School in Sechelt along the Sunshine Coast.

(Google Maps)

Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) and interviews with survivors contributed to the heart-wrenching results. 

“The GPR identifies 40 unmarked children’s graves,” said Chief Lenora Joe (yalxwemult) in a statement. “Shallow graves, only large enough to lay in the fetal position.”

“We’ve heard accounts of children attending the institution from the shíshálh Nation and 51 other nations whose children attended and also knew of missing children.”

St. Augustine’s Indian Residential School operated from 1904 to 1975 by the Roman Catholic church and was funded by the Canadian government from 1905 onward. 

The University of Saskatchewan has been working with the nation in an ongoing partnership to identify and locate the children who never came home from St. Augustine’s. 

“We are still processing and we are not comfortable with disclosing exact locations,” said Chief Lenora Joe. 

“These are not ‘remains’, these are children.”

Chief Joe said to not focus on the numbers as not all the missing children have been found and many will not be found. 

“These children were our aunties, they were our uncles and they were our leaders,” Chief Lenora Joe added.

The City of Victoria lowered its flag to half-mast on April 21st in solidarity with the shíshálh Nation.

City Councillor Matt Dell provided a statement on behalf of city council on the matter: 

“Lowering the city flag is an important way to show respect and recognition for issues that impact us locally or around the world,” Dell told Victoria Buzz. 

“Today the flag is lowered to remember and reflect on the incredible suffering caused to First Nations people at the former residential school in Sechelt, and I’m glad we can help bring recognition to the lives lost, the trauma caused and their families and community who are mourning.” 

“I hope everyone can take a few moments to look up this terrible history and reflect on the Reconciliation work ahead of us.” 

The Canadian flag at city hall will be raised from its half-mast position at sunrise on April 24th. 

Curtis Blandy

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