Skip to main content
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track on the Olympic Games
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track onthe Olympics Games
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

A man stands with his son in front of a monument to the survivors of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, after the remains of 215 children were found at the site in Kamloops, B.C., on May 29, 2021.

DENNIS OWEN/Reuters

Flags on federal buildings will be lowered for the 215 children whose remains were found at a former British Columbia residential school, the Prime Minister said Sunday as communities across Canada began mounting their own tributes to the students.

Justin Trudeau said on social media his request includes the Peace Tower flag. It comes as some called for a national day of mourning.

“To honour the 215 children whose lives were taken at the former Kamloops residential school and all Indigenous children who never made it home, the survivors, and their families, I have asked that the Peace Tower flag and flags on all federal buildings be flown at half-mast,” Trudeau said in a statement.

Story continues below advertisement

The children’s remains were located using ground-penetrating radar last weekend at the site in Kamloops, B.C., in the province’s Interior.

Trudeau’s flag call came as plans were being made to identify and return home the remains. The effort could involve the B.C. Coroners Service, the Royal B.C. Museum and forensics experts, Indigenous leaders have said.

Earlier this week, Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation in British Columbia said the discovery of the children, some as young as three years old, is an “unthinkable loss that was spoken about but never documented” at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

She said more bodies might be found because there were more areas to search on the grounds.

The Kamloops residential school operated between 1890 and 1969. The federal government took over the facility from the Catholic Church and ran it as a day school until it closed in 1978.

The National Truth and Reconciliation Commission has records of at least 51 children dying at the school between 1915 and 1963.

The Chief of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, R. Stacey LaForme, wrote Trudeau on Saturday to ask the government to lower the flags and declare a national day of mourning.

Story continues below advertisement

“There is a lot more to be done but first and foremost, we need to do this to show love and respect to the 215 children, all of the children, and their families,” LaForme said in a statement. “This should be a moment that the country never forgets.”

Sol Mamakwa, an Indigenous NDP legislator who represents the Ontario riding of Kiiwetinoong, called on the province and Canadian government to work with all First Nations to look for remains at other defunct residential schools.

“It is a great open secret that our children lie on the properties of the former schools — an open secret that Canadians can no longer look away from,” Mamakwa said in a statement. “In keeping with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Missing Children Projects, every school site must be searched for the graves of our ancestors.”

Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq said the legacy of Canada’s residential schools is “one of deep intergenerational trauma, rooted in attempted cultural genocide and assimilation.”

Savikataaq said it is not simply a dark chapter in Canadian history, but continues to be a painful reality for all First Nations, Inuit and Metis.

“In order to move forward, all Canadians must face these horrors, learn the truth, demand justice and work toward meaningful reconciliation on our terms,” he said in a statement.

Story continues below advertisement

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister on Sunday called the discovery of the mass grave “horrifying.” Flags at that province’s legislature and Memorial Park would be lowered to honour the lives lost, he said.

“We must all remain committed to righting this historic wrong and to ensure that it is never allowed to happen again,” he said.

Mayors of communities across Ontario, including Toronto, Ottawa, Mississauga and Brampton, also ordered flags lowered.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said city flags would stay lowered for nine days — 215 hours — to represent each life.

“This is a heartbreaking reminder of the terrible and shameful legacy of residential schools and the thousands of innocent children who died,” Tory said in a statement. “We know this discovery will also be difficult for survivors of the residential school system and a reminder of the trauma they endured.”

Mayor Bonnie Crombie of Mississauga, Ont., said she had also requested city flags be lowered: “I echo the calls for a national day of mourning,” she said in a statement.

Story continues below advertisement

In British Columbia, the province’s teachers federation said it would organize “orange shirt walk-ins” to honour the 215 children.

“We are also asking school districts to lower all flags to half-mast,” the union said.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies