Kamloops Indian Residential School

To: Community Living Toronto (CLTO) Staff
CLTO Members
CLTO Community
From: Brad Saunders, Chief Executive Officer
Date: June 10, 2021
Re: Kamloops Indian Residential School

We have all been shocked by the discovery of the remains of an estimated 215 children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. This event is an unsettling and vivid reminder of the horrors of cultural genocide committed against First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities in Canada by generations of governments and religious institutions. This is a terrible part of our Canadian story. 

The residential school in Kamloops was operated from 1890 – 1969 by the Catholic Church before being taken over by the federal government. It finally closed in 1978. At one point, the school was the largest residential school in Canada with over 500 students. Between 1870 and the 1990s over 150,000 children were taken to residential schools, away from their families, homes and communities. The goal of the school, as with the rest of the Canadian residential school system, was to, ‘acculturate Indigenous children’. Over 4000 children disappeared from records over the course of the residential school system. Many of these deaths were not documented by school administrators.

This story is particularly poignant for us at Community Living Toronto. Ontario and much of Canada endured a system of residential institutions for individuals with developmental disabilities for over a century.  Some still exist in other provinces. Huronia Regional Centre, the last institution in Ontario, closed in 2009. Premier Kathleen Wynne officially apologized in the Ontario Legislature for the abuse, mistreatment and lifelong trauma institutional care had on so many people who now live in our communities. 

Across the road from the former Huronia Regional Centre is a cemetery with dozens of graves.  Surrounded by a black metal fence, a path winds around the grounds past grave markers. Some have a person’s name; others are just a number. Over the past few years, more of those graves have been properly identified with the names of the deceased.

There are many great and inspirational parts of our history. Unfortunately, our collective history with residential schools and institutions are examples of the horrors that also live in our past and continue to reverberate into our present. The Government of Canada has committed to reconciliation for the wrongs perpetrated against First Nations and Indigenous peoples. We all have a role to play in walking the road to reconciliation. 

Community Living Toronto is committed to working with the individuals we support, our staff, volunteers and members to do our part in understanding this history and helping to make our city and province a more welcoming and inclusive place to call home. The present awakening to historical injustices is an opportunity to examine those parts of our Canadian story and confront them head-on. We all have a duty to listen, understand, respect, and change.