Comox Valley Local Governments Acknowledge Tragic Findings at Former Residential School Site
February 22, 2023
The Mayors of Comox, Courtenay and Cumberland, along with the Chair of the Comox Valley Regional District, have jointly issued the following statement:
It is with heavy hearts that we reach out to the Tseshaht First Nation and our Indigenous communities in the Comox Valley and across the country to mourn the innocent children who lost their lives at the Alberni Indian Residential School. Research has confirmed 67 students died while at the school, and at least 17 suspected graves were identified in the first phase of a ground survey at the site. Available records for the school indicate that students came from at least 90 different reserve communities and over 70 First Nations in British Columbia.
This tragic news follows the findings of many other communities across the country. Each one of these announcements has made us reflect about this dark chapter in Canada’s history. In acknowledging the past we must also be mindful of the ongoing impacts of residential schools and the intergenerational trauma that continues to affect Indigenous Peoples and their communities.
Survivors of this and other residential schools have recounted traumatic events and abuse – horrific truths that no child should ever experience. It has been 50 years since the closure of the Alberni Indian Residential School, and countless other individual stories have been lost to time, never to be known.
The Comox Valley Regional District, City of Courtenay, Town of Comox and Village of Cumberlandtogether as local governments acknowledge the work of reconciliation is the responsibility of all levels of government and segments of Canadian society. We will continue to provide our staff with opportunities to learn about the harmful legacy of residential schools and encourage individual learning paths on what can be a very deeply personal journey. We are grateful to the K'ómoks First Nation for patiently working together with us and providing their guidance about how we can move forward together for a better future.
In the Comox Valley, we are working together with K'ómoks First Nation and our urban Indigenous community on a process that can help us identify meaningful ways to move forward together on reconciliation. We recognize that finding the right way to do this will involve patience, time, and a commitment to participate in a collaborative process. We also know this work must be founded in Indigenous culture and customs. We look to our Indigenous community as advisors and we will provide a culturally safe space for them to participate with us.
We hope that those in our community who are impacted by today’s news reach out for support. The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24-hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of a Residential School experience. Call 1-800-721-0066 or visit the Indian Residential School Survivors Society webpage at www.irsss.ca
The Tseshaht First Nation has also shared these resources for the community:
- Quu’asa Cultural Support
- Kuu-Us Crisis Line Society
- Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society
- IRSS Crisis Line 24/7
- Metis Crisis Line
- Hope for Wellness
The City of Courtenay, Town of Comox, Village of Cumberland and the Comox Valley Regional District respectfully acknowledge the land on which they operate is on the unceded traditional territory of the K’ómoks First Nation, the traditional keepers of this land.