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Horrific residential school discovery requires national pause

Ada Slivinski: A 24-hour stop of absolutely everything for grief and reflection would be a good first step.
(Chase Clausen /

A couple of weeks ago, my youngest daughter called home sick from kindergarten. She complained of a stomach ache. After some prodding, she told me it started when they were learning about First Nations history, and how kids her age were taken away from their parents and sent to scary schools. I hugged her so tightly and told her it’s normal to feel sick, and that what happened is sickening.

This was before this week’s horrific discovery of 215 children’s bodies at a Kamloops residential school. Something of this unbelievable horror requires us to collectively stop, grieve, and offer support to the families and First Nations communities bearing the most difficult pain.

Yes we have memorials; mourners are placing shoes and lighting candles outside churches, courthouses and galleries. Flags are being lowered to half-mast for 215 hours. Schools are asking staff and students to wear orange to honour the children found buried. Politicians make statements and tweets.

It’s all important, but nowhere near enough.

215 children never came home from school. Life cannot go on as it was, without pause.

If the pandemic shutdowns have taught us anything, it’s that life can come to an almost complete stop. We can close offices, restaurants and stores. Even closing everything down for a day is not enough, but it seems better than what we are currently doing.

It feels so wrong to see restaurants buzzing and full again with selfie-takers and martini-drinkers, or patrons leaving shopping malls with bags of non-essentials.

The pandemic was enough to bring all those things to a halt. The families whose children were ripped away and never came home deserve at least the same from us.

A national tragedy deserves a national response. So stop, shut it down. Mourn the lives lost and the lives forever shattered by Canada’s residential school system. And work to make sure that this never happens again.

There is no right response to this kind of evil; no matter what we do it will never be enough. It will never change the past. But the very least we can do is to stop and feel. Like my daughter did when she called in sick and needed to process, we need to stop.

It’s right to feel sick and we need to let that feeling inspire us to reparative action. The blood is on our hands.

Ada Slivinski is the Founder & Principal of Jam PR, a boutique agency focused on helping small businesses get big exposure. You can reach her at [email protected]