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Every Child Matters

By Robin Buyers

It is necessary to respond to the finding of 215 undocumented graves in what is now British Columbia—children’s graves, found next to Kamloops Residential School on Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc territory. A sign of the times, of a reckoning with the history of this place we call home, a history of colonial and continuing genocide masquerading as good intentions.


What will manifest? In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called on churches “to ensure that their respective congregations learn about their church’s role in colonization, the history and legacy of residential schools, and why apologies to former residential school students, their families and communities were necessary.”  Ten percent of residential schools were run by the United Church. The General Council apologized for our role in 1986.


But, while necessary, apologies are not enough, educating settlers and newcomers in church on Sundays is not enough. In 1988, the All Native Circle Conference acknowledged their Church’s apology, but hoped and prayed that “the Apology is not symbolic, but that these are the words of action and sincerity.”


At such a time as this, we first open our hearts until they break.


In a time of reckoning with generations of violence in which our church was complicit, will it be possible to manifest our good intentions in good action? We can begin by following the Indigenous Ministries and Justice lead, who ask “all of the church to continue in this time of mourning and of support for each other as we grieve this loss, and others that we do not yet know about. “

In response, we call upon you to join the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Group in mourning by making the losses to Indigenous families and communities visible within the St. Clair West community. Led by the example of Tamara Bell, artist and 

daughter of a residential school survivor, we invite you to gather one or more pairs of children’s shoes and bring them as you are able to St. Matt’s.​ 


Lay the shoes in Noojimo’iwewin Gitigaan under our streetside sign, with the intention to honour the victims and survivors of residential schools and show respect for Indigenous people, their spirituality, and the Land we share. Take up some of the soil damaged by the clearing of the land and construction of settler homes as Indigenous people were displaced. Partially bury the shoes among the others, remembering all of the lost children, past and present.

Then wait for Indigenous Elders and leaders from within the United Church and without to call us from acts of mourning to acts of justice. Be ready. For we must find our way through our unsettling history to right relations, before we can even speak of reconciliation.


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