WLFN Issues Letter to City of Quesnel Mayor and Council Regarding Residential School Denialism

Trigger warning: This article discusses Residential Schools and may be triggering to some people. WLFN would like our members and the wider community to know that it is ok to ask for help.
Indian Residential School Survivors Society: 1-866-925-4419
Hope for Wellness helpline: 1-855-242-3310

On Tuesday, April 2nd, the City of Quesnel held an in-camera council meeting, to address claims brought forward by the Lhtako Dene Nation, that the Mayor of Quesnel and his wife, were distributing literature which denies the harm that Indian Residential Schools have done to generations of Indigenous people.

Leadership and Elders from Lhtako Dene Nation, Nazko First Nation, and other surrounding communities filled the council gallery to share stories of the horrors and abuse suffered at residential schools, and the lasting impact on their communities and families. In response, Williams Lake First Nation has issued a letter to the City of Quesnel and its elected leadership, condemning the distribution of denialist literature, and requesting that the City meet with the St. Joseph’s Mission (SJM) Residential School Investigation team, for education and healing purposes. The letter states:

Many of those students [who attended SJM] were taken from the communities of Lhtako Dene, Nazko Dene, Lhoosk’uz Dene, ?Esdilagh, and other communities on which the city of Quesnel and Cariboo Regional District are now located. Some of those students perished during their time at SJM and were never returned to their home communities and families. Nor did they receive proper ceremony and burial after their passing.

Read the whole letter here.

WLFN Chief Willie Sellars also attended a formal ceremony on Easter Sunday at Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc, to witness the signing of a covenant between Tk’emlúps and the Catholic Church in relation to return of archival records. Archbishop J. Michael Miller points to the covenant as opening a new chapter between First Nations people and the Catholic church, which “recognizes its complicity in the Canadian government’s colonialist policies toward First Nations and the “resulting tragedies” from the residential school system.” Mr. Miller also explicitly addressed the growing denialist movement in Canada, and said that he was distressed by this movement, and that the Catholic Church “do[es] not back up or support those who deny the tragic events in… residential schools,” he furthered to say that “there’s no question that this was a tragedy… and those who claim that it wasn’t I think are certainly misplaced in their judgment. Williams Lake First Nation is in ongoing investigation of the St. Joseph’s Mission and Onward Ranch locations, and has plans to conduct further work in 2024. To date over 150 potential unmarked graves, and 55 student deaths have been identified, in associated with the operation of the residential school.

Click here for a printable version of this release.