City of Brandon Mayor and Council Stand With Indigenous Canadians

June 1, 2021

Brandon, MB – Late last week, the nation learned 215 Indigenous children were buried in unmarked graves at Kamloops Indian Residential School. The announcement came as the result of the diligent and unyielding work of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation.

All City of Brandon flags will fly at half-mast for 215 hours – one hour for each child. The flags were lowered early Monday morning.

“I and city council make this symbolic gesture to acknowledge the pain and distress this news has brought,” said Brandon Mayor Rick Chrest.

“We hope all of Brandon’s citizens will take the time to mourn the loss of these children, and think of the families and communities in British Columbia and beyond who are directly affected.”

Chrest and city council members stand with Indigenous Canadians, recognizing the trauma and intergenerational effects associated with our nation’s residential school history. The grueling aftermath of Canadian governmental policy with regards to Indigenous Peoples is a reality all Canadians must engage with, and the City of Brandon is especially aware of this need.

In 2010, the city established the Brandon Urban Aboriginal Peoples’ Council (BUAPC). The arm’s length coalition advises the city in matters related to Indigenous Peoples.

“We mourn alongside the many Indigenous families that suffered the loss of their children to Canadian residential schools, families that, to this day, need answers. The bodies of the 215 children buried at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, children who were never returned home, represent real families that have grieved those losses for decades,” said BUAPC chairperson Leah LaPlante.

“We hope the work that will be done to identify the children’s remains can provide some measure of peace to as many families as possible.”

Most Brandonites, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike, who live on unceded Treaty 2, Dakota and Métis homelands, are aware the Brandon Industrial/Indian Residential School operated here from 1895 to 1972. While the edifice was demolished in 2000, there are gravesites at several locations linked to the school.

One site at Turtle Crossing, formerly Curran Park, operated as a gravesite for the school for more than a decade beginning in the late 1890s. These graves are also unmarked and it’s thanks to the work of researcher Katherine Nichols that we know more about this site. Sioux Valley Dakota Nation has taken the lead to ensure the remains of the approximately 50 Indigenous children are properly honoured and cared for.

The pandemic has slowed down efforts, but Chrest and Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone have maintained contact and will resume meetings shortly.

“The City of Brandon’s efforts related to truth and reconciliation will continue and evolve. News such as we heard last week is daunting, but it reminds us that the work we do together every day matters,” Chrest said.

“And, while we cannot gather because of the pandemic, I urge Brandon citizens to support the firekeepers who are tending a sacred fire to honour the Indigenous children whose remains were confirmed at Kamloops. We also hold survivors of Indian Residential Schools close to our hearts.”

The Brandon Friendship Centre organized the sacred fire, which will burn at the Riverbank Discovery Centre for four days beginning Tuesday night.