Statement on the Mass Grave Found at Kamloops Residential School

The School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP) continues to mourn the 215 children found in the mass grave at the Kamloops Residential School.

SCARP honours the collective strength of Tk’emlups te Secwepemc for leading - and spending their own resources on - the recovery efforts. We offer our condolences to all survivors of the Indian residential school system and their families. While this news is shocking, it is not surprising. Residential school survivors, families, and community leaders have known the reality that far more Indigenous students died in these schools than has been documented.  As several Indigenous leaders and experts have said, including former senator Murray Sinclair, Canadians should be prepared for more discoveries like Kamloops.

SCARP recognizes the role of professional planning in perpetuating acts of settler colonialism that continue to impact Indigenous people and communities today. From municipal plans and provincial infrastructure projects that threaten to destroy ancestral burial sites and villages, to the illegal removal of reserve land for the creation of public parks in Vancouver, planning has played a major role in attempting to eliminate Indigenous ways of life by dispossessing Indigenous people from their lands. We acknowledge that all planning in Canada happens on stolen land.

Despite centuries of oppression by Canada, Indigenous peoples have done the often re-traumatizing work to bring forward meaningful paths of reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous peoples. In fact, the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released in 2015 provides 94 tangible actions that Canadian citizens, governments, and institutions can take immediately to begin the reconciliation process. Among these Calls to Action, six of them focus on addressing missing children and burial information (#71-#76).

As planners, we must commit to more than learning about Indian residential schools and reading the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report. We must dedicate time and energy to taking immediate action. 

As a start:

  • Non-Indigenous planners must learn more about the local Indigenous peoples and lands on which their work takes place, as well as understand the impacts of colonization.
  • Non-Indigenous planners must commit to co-creating policies with local Indigenous governments that advance Indigenous rights and sovereignty, such as the motion Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the City of Vancouver.
  • Non-Indigenous planners in cities must support Indigenous-led projects and initiatives that prioritize Indigenous well-being, especially for women and families, as well as uplift planning efforts taking place on reserves (e.g., by offering technical support and time).
  • Importantly, all planners must continue to celebrate and honour Indigenous people’s strength and jurisdictional authority over their lands.

These are just a few examples of a very long list of ways planners can make amends for past wrongs and work towards respectful relationships with Indigenous peoples.

For those seeking support in this profoundly difficult time, please contact the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419. And for those seeking to know more about the schools and their legacies, please review the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Student Supports
  • The Hope for Wellness Help Line is open to all Indigenous Peoples across Canada, and offers 24-hour mental health counselling, via phone 1-855-242-3310 or chat Line: https://chat.fn-i-hopeforewellness.ca/
  • Call 310-6789 (no area code needed) toll-free anywhere in BC to access emotional support, information and resources specific to mental health and substance use issues. Available 24 hours a day.
  • Indigenous UBC students can access support via the Student Health and Wellbeing portal.
Community Supports
  • The First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) offers support for Indigenous people (status and non-status) who have had members of their family attend residential school. Please review this information here.Here’s a list of service providers registered with health benefits at their website or call 1-855-550-5454.
  • The Hope for Wellness Help Line is open to all Indigenous Peoples across Canada, and offers 24-hour mental health counselling, via phone 1-855-242-3310 or chat Line.
  • The KUU-US Crisis Line Society operates a 24-hour provincial Aboriginal Crisis line for: adults, elders and youth. Learn more
    Adult/Elder Crisis Line: 250-723-4050
    Child/Youth Crisis Line: 250-723-2040
    BC Wide Toll Free: 1-800-588-8717
    Métis Crisis Line BC Toll Free: 1-833-638-4722
  • The Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) provides essential services to Residential School Survivors, their families, and to those dealing with intergenerational trauma. Call toll free: 1-800-721-0066.
  • The BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres supports Aboriginal Friendship Centres across the province that support urban Aboriginal people. You can learn more about the Friendship Centre model, provincial initiatives and programs, and connect with local Friendship Centres here.
  • The Hope for Wellness Help Line is open to all Indigenous Peoples across Canada, and offers 24-hour mental health counselling, via phone 1-855-242-3310 or chat Line.
  • Call 310-6789 (no area code needed) toll-free anywhere in BC to access emotional support, information and resources specific to mental health and substance use issues. Available 24 hours a day.