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Letter Regarding Truth and Reconciliation

Dear Foothills School Division students, families, and staff

On May 27, the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc First Nation in Kamloops BC announced the discovery of more than 215 remains of children buried at the site of what was once a Residential school. The news of this unthinkable loss is devastating.

This tragedy is far reaching and is impacting both Indigenous and non-Indigenous members of our community, causing pain and a wide range of emotions. As a Division, we are horrified. We acknowledge these atrocities as a shameful part of our shared history.

We often think of tragedy as happening somewhere else, somewhere distant. We must confront reality and acknowledge that atrocities related to residential schools have been committed in the communities we know and love. The Dunbow Industrial School, also known as St. Joseph’s Industrial School was open in Okotoks from 1883 until 1922. It’s estimated that 73 Indigenous children died there before the government abolished all industrial schools in Canada in 1923. 

In the media this week, you may have also heard about Ethan Bear, an Indigenous National Hockey League player with the Edmonton Oilers. Ethan, who is a proud member of the Ochapowace First Nation, publicly took a stand against racism after receiving hurtful messages on social media. His action inspired many to join the social media movement #IStandWithEthan.

The tragic residential school news and Ethan Bear’s story are reminders that we as a Division and society have more work to do. Understanding the hidden truths of Canada’s past and reconciling our relationship with Indigenous peoples and the land is only just beginning. We remain committed to listening, learning, and supporting those who have been impacted by racism in our community.

As Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission once said, “Education got us into this mess and education will get us out of it.”

During this period of mourning, Foothills School Division will be lowering flags to half-mast at all schools for 215 hours (9 days) to honour and remember the 215 children who lost their lives at the Residential School in Kamloops.

We are also encouraging students, staff, and community members to wear an orange shirt at any point this week. Wearing an orange shirt is a way to honour the survivors of residential schools, those that did not return, and those families whose lives were changed forever. It is an opportunity to create meaningful discussion about the effects of residential schools and the legacy they have left behind. It is one of many ways to demonstrate support and action as we move forward on our Division’s Truth and Reconciliation journey.

Many individuals and families in our community still carry the scars of residential school history. We mourn with you and invite all the Foothills School Division community to do the same.

Sincerely,

Chris Fuzessy
Superintendent of Schools

Larry Albrecht
Board Chair