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Joint Statement on Preliminary Findings from Investigation of Former St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School in Williams Lake

This message contains sensitive content and could be triggering. For crisis supports here in BC please contact the KUU-US Crisis Line at 1-800-588-8717 or visit the First Nations Mental Health and Wellness Support page for additional support services. A complete listing of support services is included at the end of this statement. 

The First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), First Nations Health Directors Association (FNHDA), and First Nations Health Council (FNHC) are affected by receiving preliminary results from the geophysical investigations that identified the possible location of 93 unmarked graves located on the grounds of the former St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School in Williams Lake. In this moment, we stand with the T’exelcemc (people of Williams Lake First Nation), all residential school survivors, their families, and others traumatized by this tragic revelation.

This news, as well as recent findings in Kamloops, speaks to the lasting impacts and ongoing harms of colonialism and the residential school system on First Nations people, their families, and communities. As we continue the important work toward justice and reconciliation, we encourage all Canadians to acknowledge and to speak out against Indigenous-specific racism in all its forms.

In response to these findings, we renew our calls to our healthcare partners, the provincial and federal governments, and other partners to work with us to mobilize mental health and cultural supports. At present, the FNHA’s Provincial and Interior response teams are prepared to work closely with local community Chiefs and leaders to assess and identify immediate needs. The FNHA continues to offer existing culturally safe mental health and wellness supports including the KUU-US Crisis Line, Tsow-Tun-Le-Lum Society and the Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society.

Quotes:

Colleen Erickson, Board Chair, FNHA

“Residential School Trauma is important for us to address, and yesterday was a reminder of that essential teaching.”

Richard Jock, CEO, FNHA

“The FNHA was created to support needs arising from communities and Nations in BC. Our teams are available across the province to respond and partner with First Nations communities in improving access to culturally safe health and wellness services.”

Wade Grant, Chair, FNHC

“We call upon our ancestral teachings as we support the Williams Lake First Nation community as they reckon with the history of St. Joseph’s Mission. The legacy of Indian residential schools in Canada is a part of everyday lived experience for First Nations people, and this latest news reminds us yet again of the need for trauma-informed and culturally-relevant care in mental health and wellness for First Nations people.”​

Keith Marshall, President, FNHDA

“We acknowledge and honour the courage of the Williams Lake First Nation community for doing this discovery work. From addressing the legacy of residential schools or confronting racism in health care, our collective work is complex and long-term solutions will be a challenging road as First Nations in BC and others work towards achieving basic human rights and freedoms in all our institutions.”

Wellness and Cultural Supports:​

FNHA Mental Health and Wellness Supports page: Mental Health and Wellness Supports (fnha.ca)

Tsow Tun Le Lum: Call toll-free 1-888-403-3123 or visit www.tsowtunlelum.org

KUU-US Crisis Line Society: a 24-hour provincial Indigenous crisis line. Adults and Elders call 250-723-4050; Children and Youth call 250-723-2040. Toll-free 1-800-588-8717. Learn more at www.kuu-uscrisisline.com

Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS): Call toll-free 1-800-721-0066 or visit www.irsss.ca

First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line: Phone toll-free 1-855-242-3310 or chat online at hopeforw​ellness.ca.

The Métis Crisis Line: available 24 hours a day at 1-833-MétisBC, 1-833-638-4722.​

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