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UVic orange t-shirt design. Artist: Carey Newman (Kwakwaka'wakw/Coast Salish)

Sacred fire

On June 1, a Sacred Fire ceremony was held on campus to offer support to students, staff, faculty and Elders as we honoured the 215 Indigenous children found by the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation at a former residential school in Kamloops, BC.

The sacred fire was tended to 24 hours a day until noon Friday, June 4 when it was allowed to extinguish on its own.

Hundreds of people came by to sit by the fire, lay down prayers and medicine and write messages to the 215 children of the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Those messages were burned in the fire as part of the healing.

Territory acknowledgement

We acknowledge and respect the lək̓ʷəŋən peoples on whose traditional territory the University of Victoria stands, and the Songhees, Esquimalt and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples whose historical relationships with the land continue to this day.

UVic library lit up in orange lights at dusk, in honour of the remains of 215 children found at the former Kamloops Residential School.

Presidential statement

June 1, 2021

Dear members of the UVic community,

The tragic identification of the mass grave at the Kamloops Indian Residential School is part of the long history of colonial violence and genocide at the hands of Canadian educational institutions, the Canadian government and religious organizations.

As we begin National Indigenous History Month today, it is important that we face head-on the realities of Canada's history and present. Sadly, these atrocities happened here in our country, this happened recently, within many of our lifetimes, and this happened to the most defenseless in our society—innocent children. This defies our sense of humanity and should challenge us to truly reflect on what we stand for as Canadians.

The university flags were lowered on May 28 in memory of the 215 children whose bodies have been confirmed to be buried on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School in Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation territory.

The flags will remain lowered until further notice in honour of the thousands of children who died while held at residential schools, including the 215 students who died on Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc land, and the 202 children known to have lost their lives at the five residential schools on Vancouver Island.

We will be lighting the Mearns Centre–McPherson Library and university road entrances in orange and we encourage everyone to wear orange as a visible and visual symbol of our awareness of the need for ongoing reconciliation. Our use of orange is connected to Orange Shirt Day.

Ceremony

A sacred fire will be lit according to local protocol. This ceremony will include a welcome to the territory, singing and drumming from Nations across Vancouver Island and will conclude with two minutes and 15 seconds of silence at 2:15 pm. Due to COVID restrictions, in-person attendance will be limited to 50 people, so I encourage you to watch the live-stream.

A time of support, learning & action

This is a time of deep grief and sadness for Indigenous students, staff and faculty. We are working to support the UVic Elders through this very difficult time, and I ask each of us to offer support to our colleagues and friends who are affected by this news. Your support can and should include the flexibility required to attend to their ceremonial and community needs, to grieve and support others in their lives.

During my recent years in Australia, a wise Worimi Elder once told me you can't have respect and reconciliation without truth. The truth is before our eyes, we can no longer choose to ignore it, deny it or hide it. We can no longer turn away from the real history of Canada—the legacy of residential schools that has been brought so clearly into our awareness this week. This is the time for all non-Indigenous faculty, staff and students to learn about and truly engage on these important issues. We will be posting information and resources on the UVic website this week to assist us with that learning.

The University of Victoria and all educational institutions have a responsibility to acknowledge and address our role in perpetuating colonial systems. This statement is just an initial response, and I promise that much more reflection, learning and, most importantly, action will take place over the coming weeks and months.

With deep sadness and resolute commitment,

Kevin

Kevin Hall, PhD
President and Vice-Chancellor

Support & resources

If you find that you need emotional support, there are services available.

Gerry Ambers (ʼNa̱mǥis / Kwakwaka'wakw), Elder-in-Residence at the First Peoples House, offers viewers several ways to stay calm and grounded in these challenging times. Produced by the Office of Indigenous Academic and Community Engagement at UVic.

Indigenous resources

KUU-US Crisis Line
The KUU-US Crisis Line Society operates a 24-hour provincial aboriginal crisis line for adults/Elders and youth.
Adults/Elders: 250-723-4050
Child/Youth: 250-723-2040
Toll Free Line: 1-800-588-8717

Indian Residential School Survivors Society Crisis Line
24-hour crisis line for survivors and family of survivors.
Toll Free 1-866-925-4419

First Nations Health Authority Mental Health Benefits
FNHA partners with Indigenous Services Canada to offer a comprehensive mental health plan to First Nations in BC. The plan covers counselling services from a qualified mental health provider, including psychologists, clinical counsellors and social workers. 

UVic Resources

Counselling for Indigenous Students
Indigenous counsellors provide individual and group counselling that treat the heart, body, mind and spirit for Indigenous students. Indigenous counselling sessions are flexible in length, you are seen on the spot for emergency appointments and in general, you are able to meet with the Indigenous Counsellor without having to wait too long.

Employee and family assistance program
UVic staff and faculty and dependents can find support through our employee and family assistance program (EFAP). The program is designed to provide you with information, advice and support to help you navigate many of life's milestones. EFAP is a confidential program that includes professional counselling, information and referral services. UVic’ s EFAP provider is LifeWorks.

SupportConnect
SupportConnect is a free, confidential mental health support service for UVic students. You can connect with qualified counsellors, consultants and life coaches by phone or online 24/7. Video or in-person options are available.
Toll-free (calls from North America): 1-844-773-1427
International collect calls: 1-250-999-7621

UVic Counselling Services 
Located in the new Student Wellness Centre at 2300 McKenzie across the street from the CARSA gym. Counselling sessions for UVic students can be booked by calling the number above. Indigenous counsellors are available.
250-721-8563 

Here2Talk
Connects students with mental health support when they need it. Through this program, all students currently registered in a B.C. post-secondary institution have access to free, confidential counselling and community referral services, conveniently available 24/7 via app, phone and web.

Other resources

Vancouver Island Crisis Line
24-hour crisis line service to Vancouver Island, the islands of the Georgia Strait, and the mainland communities between Powell River and Rivers Inlet, as defined by Island Health. It operates 365 days a year. Crisis workers provide short-term nonjudgemental emotional, support, crisis intervention, information and resources.
1-888-494-3888

Learning resources

Every Child Matters: Honouring Children Missing from Residential Schools

UVic Libraries have put together a list of educational and scholarly resources related to the remembrance of the many children missing from Canada's residential schools.

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