'No road map' for grieving or healing after B.C. residential school finding: chief

The former Kamloops Indian Residential School is seen in Kamloops, B.C., on Tuesday, June 1, 2021. The remains of 215 children have been discovered buried near the former school. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A sunny June has arrived, and graduations are taking place throughout our province. I have a daughter graduating this weekend.

She is bright and dynamic and has her place set for higher education. We will assemble in our cars and watch the students walk across the stage, their colourful cap and gown an expression of achievement. Speeches will be made from the podium, and great leaders will be quoted from Google searches.

Words like “nothing can dim the light that shines within you” or “start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Car horns will be sounded, pictures will be taken, and families will share a celebratory meal at the end of the day.

But this week, we are conflicted.

We know of the three Grade 12 students from Kelowna Secondary School killed in a car crash; our heartfelt condolences to the families, school and wider community.

We are also attempting to process Canada’s dark story of residential schools with the news of discovering 215 unmarked graves in Kamloops. There are moments when we cannot pray elaborate prayers because the very groans and sighs are our prayers; tears are our response. And, somewhere at that moment, we need to lift our clear voices, our united voices, to the call for the ongoing truth and reconciliation process to continue.

A light in the darkness, so that truth and healing can be found amid this heartbreak and trauma — the traumatic reality that thousands of indigenous children were taken by force from their families and never returned.

Heritage Christian School made a statement that captures the posture the faith community should start with, “215 lives, every single one matters. Our hearts are with the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc and the entire indigenous community who are mourning this devastating loss and recent news. We honour the journey of residential school survivors and the memory of those that never made it home.”

What I often say about life, is that we hold hope in one hand and pain and disappointment in the other.

As the grads walk across the stage, I would remind them that we always live with this tension. “Life is like a set of parallel train tracks, with joy and sorrow running inseparably throughout our days,” writes Pastor Rick Warren’s wife, Kay. “One of our toughest challenges in life is to learn how to live on both of those tracks at the same time.” I believe we are at a moment when we are holding great sorrow, but need to also fight for hope. I listened to retired senator Murray Sinclair’s online address; he told the stories he had heard while chairing the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He finished his address with the call for healing.

Jesus came to heal the wounds of the world. Now we, the church, must take responsibility and step into action.

If you need someone to talk to, there is a residential school crisis line 1-866-925-4419.

Phil Collins is a pastor at Willow Park Church in Kelowna.