Susan Cairns (left) and Cecelia Reekie with the 215 crosses bedecked with children’s clothes placed in memory of the Kamloops residential school victims at the Derek Doubleday Arboretum at 21559 Fraser Hwy. Langley on Tuesday, June 15. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

Susan Cairns (left) and Cecelia Reekie with the 215 crosses bedecked with children’s clothes placed in memory of the Kamloops residential school victims at the Derek Doubleday Arboretum at 21559 Fraser Hwy. Langley on Tuesday, June 15. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

Langley School District Foundation called to action by ‘atrocity’

Board and executive director describe ordeal as a ‘travesty’, and vow to ‘be there’ with support and aid

Langley School District Foundation’s board is joining countless other groups and organizations in vocalizing its “devastation” about the children’s bodies found buried on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School last month.

The comments come with a promise to support the local First Nations, “however we can, according to their needs,” said the foundation’s executive director Susan Cairns.

The foundation will continue to provide scholarships, funding for counselling, food programs, field trips, summer school excursions, and much more. But what, if anything else is needed is still unclear, Cairns explained.

“We wait for their direction; they should not have to wait for ours. As always, we will be there for them, just like they have always been there for us.”

In the foundation’s statement it spoke of the bodies of 215 little children, some as young as three years old, who were discovered buried at the old residential school.

RELATED: Remains of 215 children found at former B.C. residential school an ‘unthinkable loss’

“It was a newscast that seared the brain and scarred the soul and when the Langley School District Foundation learned of the staggering atrocity, all directors and staff wondered, when is enough enough?” Cairns said.

“Or, more to the point, when is enough way too much? In dealing with the shock, subsequent sadness, and even rage,” she said the foundation has reached out to its Aboriginal colleagues to offer condolences and whatever support it can offer.

Discussions have occurred, she said, noting that the foundation will be bringing to fruition some ideas and initiatives soon.

RELATED: Executive director retires from Langley’s public school foundation

In the meantime, she and the board reflected on the discovery, and the “atrocities” they represent through all the years.

In the week since the discovery, the foundation grappled with what she called a travesty and wondered: “Could we be so forgiving if our children were ripped from our arms and thrown into a system that dishonoured and negated their very existence?” Cairns pondered.

“It’s a part of our history now and the plight of First Nations can no longer be ignored nor swept under the dirt of an unmarked grave,” she said.

READ MORE – Our View: Buried history comes to light in residential school graves

Then they asked, “What happens to a society and culture, when generation after generation of potential scholars, athletes, mothers, fathers, aunties, and elders are expunged forever? Who do the survivors turn to for help and advice?”

What the foundation knows and has known for more than 20 years, through working and collaborating with the Kwantlen, Katzie, Matsqui, and Semiahmoo First Nations, is that the Aboriginal culture is strong, said foundation board chair Alison McVeigh.

“The bonds are cast in steel and the wisdom is comforting and profound,” she said. “The Langley School District Foundation sincerely hopes that we can be there for any of our Aboriginal students, friends and colleagues.”

“We have benefitted from the mentorship of our Aboriginal partners over the years,” Cairns added. “Now it is the foundation’s turn to provide any help that we can. We will be there.”

.


Have a story tip? Email: news@langleyadvancetimes.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

EducationLangleyLangley School Districtresidential schools