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Honouring the Children Found at Tk’emlúps Indian Residential School

In difficult times, it’s important to come together, lift each other up and continue the healing journey.

In honour of the 215 Indigenous children found at the former Tk’emlúps Indian Residential School, the Burnaby Schools community was invited to wear orange the week of May 31. To pay respect to families and communities who are mourning and to those who have suffered trauma and harm at the former Residential School in Kamloops, the Canadian flags at our school and district sites are flying at half-mast until further notice.

Across the district, staff and students have been coming together as a community to provide space to heal, reflect and honour the children lost, such as at Buckingham Elementary where Grade 6 and 7 students wrote letters of support to the families and communities who lost their children. They shared the letters out loud and talked about them as the students and teachers grappled with emotions of sadness and heartbreak together. The students then hung 215 orange ribbons in a ceremony at the front of the school to honour and remember each child found.

At Burnaby Central Secondary students and staff gathered in front of the school at 11am each day during the week of May 31st. Students read poetry, played instruments, and danced while holding tiny shoes to pay their respects at the special ceremonies held beneath the flags lowered to half-mast.

Sage, sweet grass and song was shared by Squamish Nation Elder Xwalacktun at Burnaby North Secondary and 215 candles were lit. École Alpha Secondary staff and students met in a circle outdoors to reflect, and a group of students learned about Indigenous drumming, as they continued their commitment to truth and reconciliation.

The youngest students at Morley Elementary poured their thoughts and emotions into art, after the Kindergarten and Grade 1 students reflected on why the flags were at half-mast.  At Lochdale Community School, students created a shoe memorial inspired by Haida artist Tamara Bell to honour the children at the Kamloops residential school and the many others throughout Canada who never came home.

Many schools had art installations, such as hearts in the garden and a window display at Burnaby Mountain Secondary with the words “Our Hearts Are With You.” Students at South Slope Elementary, the BC School for the Deaf and Burnaby South Secondary personalized and coloured and displayed feathers, as did Montecito, University Highlands and Aubrey Elementary schools.

On May 31, the District Principal of Indigenous Education, Rob Smyth, the Chair of the Burnaby Board of Education, Jen Mezei, and Superintendent Gina Niccoli-Moen sent a letter to the parents of all students.

“Our deepest and most sincere condolences go out to the families of the children and to all communities closely affected. The impact of this tragedy is vast, and our hearts are also with Indigenous students, families, and staff in the Burnaby School District.”

Read the letter to Families From the District Principal of Indigenous Education, Board Chair and Superintendent

Across the District, displays of hearts, feathers, and ribbons adorn walls, windows, and railings as students, educators, administrators, and staff continue to reflect, learn and embark on a journey of healing together. See below.

Resources For Support

In addition to school counsellors, the letter also shares resources where confidential help in the community can be accessed:

  • Indian Residential Schools Survivor Society 24 Hour Crisis Line 1-866-925-4419
  • Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society Resolution Health Support Program 1-877-477-0775 (Support services for former Residential School students and their families)
  • First Nations Health Authority – Virtual Counselling and Health Services 1-855-344-3800 (
  • More resources can be found on the District’s website here:

Resources to Learn More

Indigenous Education in Burnaby Schools Learning Resources

FNESC Indian Residential Schools and Reconciliation Resources

Gladys We Never Knew – BCTF


Updated June 7, 2021