Statement on announcement of Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation and invitation to sacred fire ceremony

- President Kevin Hall

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.


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 Hall, PhD
President and Vice-Chancellor