Indigenous centres step up support in wake of discovery of children's remains
Coverage, memorials triggering trauma, especially among residential school survivors
WARNING: This story contains distressing details.
As coverage of the discovery of the remains of 215 children at a former residential school in B.C. continues, Indigenous agencies in Ottawa are supporting people here who are grappling with the trauma.
"Lots of heavy hearts, lots of prayers and ceremony and smudging to keep the individual grounded," said Mary Daoust, executive director of Minwaashin Lodge. "Many people are actually in the moment walking this journey with those little 215 spirits that have just been freed."
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Minwaashin Lodge, located in Ottawa's Overbrook neighbourhood, has long offered counselling and a crisis line for women, children and families who are survivors of domestic violence. Many are also living with the impact of Canada's residential school system.
They don't have to tell their life story to get the support that they need.- Mary Daoust, Minwaashin Lodge
Daoust said since news first emerged of the graves on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, both clients and the lodge's own staff have been seeking additional support. She said many found it difficult to deal with images of a memorial around the Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill honouring the 215 children.
"Seeing all the little baby shoes around the fire, your heart breaks because you can feel the energy of that loss and that trauma," said Daoust. "That is where these feelings come bubbling up to the surface."
Ellen Mack, a survivor of St. Anne's Indian Residential School in Fort Albany, Ont., attended a noon-hour drumming circle Tuesday at the Centennial Flame.
"I couldn't come right away because I was too afraid I might start crying," she said. "I didn't sleep last night. I got a flashback and everything came back to me. I thought I was trying to get rid of it, but now I've got a shaking feeling just from talking about it."
For Daoust, Mack's struggle with her own trauma highlights the need for support services tailored to First Nations, Inuit and Métis residents.
"They don't have to tell their life story to get the support that they need," she said. "There's a genuine understanding and acknowledgement that comes from Indigenous organizations working with Indigenous people. We get it."
Our mental wellness team is here to support you if you need someone to talk to and can be reached at 613-748-0657 (press 4 & then 2 to reach Wabano's crisis line during business hours).—@WabanoHealth
In addition to Minwaashin Lodge, Ottawa's Wabano Centre has also reached out to Indigenous people to offer support through its 24/7 crisis line and other programs, tweeting: "We know this was not an isolated incident, and this news is deeply hurtful and disturbing to community members."
Support is available for anyone affected by the lingering effects of residential schools and anyone triggered by the latest reports:
- The Indian Residential School Survivors Society, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-721-0066.
- A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line set up to provide support for former students and anyone affected. You can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.