Board Statement on Penelakut Island Discovery


The following statement is from Candace Spilsbury, Chair of the Board of Education for the Cowichan Valley School District

“On behalf of the Board of Education of the Cowichan Valley School District, and our entire organization, I want to express our profound sadness at the discovery of over 160 unmarked graves on the site of the Kuper Island Industrial School on Penelakut Island.

As a district, and community, we have been grieving the loss of these stolen lives from the first announcement of their discoveries. While we have heard, known, and believed the testimony from survivors of Residential Schools, these discoveries are adding a sobering reality to the lived experiences of friends, families, staff, students, and the larger community.

These testimonies and discoveries are the horrible ‘truth’ in truth and reconciliation. While we all want to embark on our own reconciliation journeys, it is only through listening to and knowing these truths that we can start. We need to understand the fundamental and systematic racism, as well as the genocide inflicted against Indigenous peoples through the Residential School system and how the long-lasting effects of this trauma reverberate through families and communities to this day.

The Penelakut Tribe is hosting a March for Children on August 2 beginning at 9am starting at the Salish Sea Market on Oak Street in Chemainus. Healing sessions are scheduled on July 28 and August 4th at the Penelakut School gym for Tribes members and neighbouring First Nations.  An invitation to witness the truths at these healing sessions has been extended to non-Indigenous allies as well. Penelakut Tribe has released a statement with further details

While specific preparations are being made for school district staff regarding the trauma of these discoveries, we encourage anyone who is in need of support to contact the Indian Residential School Survivors Society at 1-800-721-0066, or at the 24-hour crisis line at 1-866-925-4419.

We continue to grieve alongside the Penelakut people, and all nations whose children were torn from their homes and sent to Kuper Island Residential School.”