A New Brunswick First Nation woman says bringing a teddy bear to Kamloops, B.C. is a way to show support to the community.
It will “let them know we’re here, crying, as you are crying there,” says Victoria Ginnish of the Natoaganeg First Nation.
Victoria and her husband, Stephen, are heading to the west coast to visit family and her son told her they’d be paying a visit to Kamloops, where she’ll eventually leave the bear.
She picked up the bear outside the Catholic church in the community, where a collection of teddy bears and pairs of shoes were laid in response to the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at former residential schools.
The number of children that may be buried in unmarked and undocumented graves at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School may be much higher than the 215 already believed to have been discovered.
“We need to look forward and bring our culture back,” Victoria says, “and [the teddy bear is] going to start bringing it back.”
“In all fairness to those families out there… in Saskatchewan and B.C., there needs to be an investigation into what happened to their children,” Victoria’s husband, Stephen, says.
“Because I know if it was one of my children, I would not leave this world until I had the answers.”
“It does disgust me in a lot of ways. It’s kind of a wait-and-see attitude of what this country is going to do, but we don’t hear much yet,” he says.
The bear was on display when Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller joined Chief George Ginnish for a shelter announcement in the community last week.
“We knew this was the situation,” Ginnish says. “To have it thrust into everybody’s forefront this heavily with so many lost young lives, it’s a wake-up call for everyone that we really need to look at the calls to action and what they mean.”
Victoria just hopes the bear will educate people and help start to heal some of the intergenerational trauma that continues today.
“Teddy bears show love and safety,” Victoria says. “When you pick him up and hug him, he just gives you so much love and security.
“So once a child sees this, they’re just opened up, and that’s why he’s a representative of our children.”
The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program has a hotline to help residential school survivors and their relatives suffering with trauma invoked by the recall of past abuse. The number is 1-866-925-4419.
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