A message from TRU President and Vice-Chancellor Brett Fairbairn
Dear students, staff, and faculty,
Yesterday, Williams Lake First Nation (T’exelc) held a news conference and informed Canadians that its preliminary geophysical investigation has identified 93 potential burial sites on the lands of the St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, the site of a former residential school.
The news is another painful reminder of an ugly history brought to light last summer in Kamloops when Indigenous leaders confirmed the presence of 215 unmarked graves on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. These revelations have brought shock and sadness into our communities, especially for Indigenous people, who have long known many of their children died and were buried unnamed and unremembered at residential schools.
This announcement will no doubt return these unresolved issues to the forefront of our collective thoughts, causing fresh pain and sorrow. Thompson Rivers University offers our support to the T’exelcem and Indigenous partners, and to anyone who may be affected by this news.
I want to remind everyone of the following support resources available to assist those in need:
Resources available to students:
TRU Counselling Services: call 250-828-5023 (Kamloops) or 250-392-8000 (Williams Lake)
24/7 Provincial Counselling Services: Here2Talk.ca or call 1-877-857-3397
Co-ordinator of Indigenous Support Services, Williams Lake: Geraldine Bob, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-392-8000
Indigenous Student Development (Cplul’kw’ten): reach out to an Indigenous Learning Strategist at email@example.com
Resources available to faculty and staff:
Counsellor support through LifeWorks: call 1-877-207-8833
Campus Wellness Advisor: Joy Demsey, email firstname.lastname@example.org if you need further support
Other services include:
Williams Lake First Nation: Emergency Emotional & Spiritual Health Resources
First Nations Health Authority: Mental Health and Wellness Support
Indian Residential School Survivors Society: 24 Hour Crisis Line, call 1-800-721-0066
KUU-US Crisis Line Society: 24 Hour Crisis Line (British Columbia)
Métis Nation BC: 24 Hour Crisis Line, call 1-833-METIS-BC (1-833-638-4722)
In addition, Williams Lake First Nation is burning a sacred fire at the Chief William Arbor for three days and everyone is welcome to attend.
These continue to be difficult and painful times for truth and reconciliation in Canada. Our university strongly believes in the 94 calls to action made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission—a commitment reflected in our strategic goals and increasingly in our actions.
TRU’s vision calls for us to be a place of belonging, as inspired by the Secwépemc word Kw’seltktnéws. It means we are all related and interconnected with nature, each other, and all things. This vision means we must be willing to share the emotional burden of these sins of the past and accept that we have a responsibility to heal the harm caused by colonialism.
We must be willing to mourn the horrific loss of these children alongside Indigenous partners, neighbours, and friends with humility and respect, and once again pledge our commitment to the hope of healing and reconciliation for the future.
I urge you to remember these children and stand with me in support of those who are faced with the heavy task of bringing their lost souls back to those who loved them.
President and Vice-Chancellor
Note: Standing in support with Williams Lake First Nation (T’exelc), flags are lowered to half-mast on TRU campuses on Wednesday, Jan. 26, and the flag situated on the Campus Commons on the Kamloops campus has been replaced with the orange Every Child Matters flag until further notice.