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  • Writer's picturevilmablenman

Canada Day or Crying Day?

So, it’s Canada Day, and I don’t know what to say. What to say in the wake of the 215 remains found in unmarked graves at Kamloops Indian Residential School, then the 755 found by the Cowessess First Nations community in Saskatchewan, and now, just in time for Canada Day, 182 found at the site of the former St. Eugene Mission School near Cranbrook.

I don’t know what to feel either, though as a therapist I could pull out my feeling wheel. Words like “shocking” or “traumatic" or “disturbing” do not do justice, nor do the primal “sad” and “mad,” though they are beginning points.

We may need to invent new words to describe the feelings and the failings as more and more of this tragic tale of the legacy of residential is told through these unmarked graves. And told through survivors who told the TRC but were not always believed.

Well, now we are all believers.

These were children—innocents, taken from their parents, many forcibly. They were not soldiers who went to war knowingly. How did this happen?

Let me be clear—I’m a settler, not native to Canada, not Indigenous. I’m Black, Jamaican-Canadian, but I know that I must be part of the change, part of the allied group supporting our First Nations brethren calling for action and taking action to ensure real change.

On this Canada Day, I’m reflecting—long and hard, educating myself and trying to educate others. I've put up a sidewalk shrine of sorts on my front lawn, hoping to spark conversations with my neighbours. But the visual also helps me to mourn. And I wrote a poem. The words help me to release what can’t be spoken.What are you saying?

Digging for Graves


find the children,

the missing and marred ones,

the unheard in unmarked graves

their small bodies lying together

where poppies do not grow

row on row

where the green ground cries out

the cries echoing mothers’ cries

like mourning doves at dusk and dawn.

We mourn with those who mourn: 215 then 751 and 188 and more to mourn ...


dig for graves. Go ahead

and disturb the dead

to restore their dignity

to mark their places peacefully

to ensure we unearth our heads

from the sand and see settler history.

Dig to exhume our hearts to examine

blood lines to find the traces of toxins

that killed kindness to children born

of another race.

Make us gaze at our inhuman face.

Find the children, please.

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