A young man leaves a teddy bear in memory of 215 children whose remains were found at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. Flags at municipal and school buildings including White Rock and Surrey have been lowered to half-mast to honour the young lives. (Megan Atkins-Baker photo)

A young man leaves a teddy bear in memory of 215 children whose remains were found at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. Flags at municipal and school buildings including White Rock and Surrey have been lowered to half-mast to honour the young lives. (Megan Atkins-Baker photo)

White Rock, Surrey lower flags to honour Kamloops residential-school victims

The remains of 215 children were found on May 27

The City of White Rock has joined municipalities across the country in lowering its flags to half-mast to honour the 215 children whose remains were found last week at the site of a former Kamloops residential school.

In a news release issued Monday (May 31) evening, Mayor Darryl Walker said the city “shares the pain of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation and the surrounding communities at the discovery of the remains.”

The bodies of 215 Indigenous children were found buried on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School on Thursday (May 27).

READ MORE: Remains of 215 children found at former B.C. residential school an ‘unthinkable loss’

“Having this atrocity in our country’s history casts a dark shadow over Canada. Finding the remains of these young, innocent children sheds light on the years of misery and unimaginable loss for their families,” Walker continues.

“We echo the voice of our neighbours, the Semiahmoo First Nation … We send a message of support to all of Canada’s Indigenous communities affected by the abhorrent and inhumane residential school system. And, we compel the Government of Canada to act to support our First Nations at this difficult time and in the future as we heal as a nation.”

The residential school was operated by the Catholic Church from 1890 to 1969 and had as many as 500 children enrolled at one time. The feds then took over the facility and ran it as a day school until it closed down in 1978.

The City of Surrey has also lowered its flags to honour the children, as has the Surrey School District.

READ MORE: Flags in Surrey being flown at half-mast to honour 215 children found buried in Kamloops

READ MORE: Petition calls for day of mourning for children found buried at former B.C. residential school

“The heartbreaking legacy of the residential school system is a dark and shameful chapter in Canada’s history,” Mayor Doug McCallum said in a release issued Sunday (May 30).

Both cities have pledged to keep the flags at half-mast for 215 hours, in memory of each life lost. The school district says its flags will be flown at half-mast “until further notice.”

A petition calling for a National Day of Mourning for Children had more than 102,000 signatures as of Tuesday (June 1) morning. It is directed at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett.

“Survivors of residential schools and their families carry the burden of this tragedy and it is due time that Canada as a whole also share this burden. These deaths impact every person in this land and so it’s important that we all come together to mourn,” the petition reads.

– with files from Katya Slepian and Beau Simpson

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