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Residential school survivor urges non-Indigenous people ‘to use that anger in a good way’

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    SASKATOON, Saskatchewan (CTV Network) — At the age of four, Brenda Dubois was forced to attend a residential school in Saskatchewan.

She attended Qu’Appelle Indian Residential School in 1960 – the same school her father went to decades earlier.

While she has made strides in her ongoing healing from the traumatic experience of being taken away from her family, Dubois told CTV National News: “As the days have gone by, different repressed memories are slowly coming to the surface.”

Despite her years of advocacy, Dubois was still shocked at the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation’s discovery of unmarked graves believed to contain the remains of 215 children on the grounds of the Kamloops Residential School in British Columbia.

“Now, the truth is being exposed in the most atrocious way,” she said. “I really want non-Indigenous people to sort of take a moment if they can. What if that was their child?”

“I ask people to pray with us, to laugh with us… to cry with us, to use that anger in a good way,” she said. “Please help us find answers not only for the ones that are in B.C. but for the ones that are there all over and haven’t come home.”

Within Indigenous communities, Dubois said there seems to be “a change in the air.” She urged more people to show compassion and action.

While she’s heartened to see allies, including some lawmakers, express grief publicly, she wants more concrete actions.

“We need ground-penetrating radar. We need teams of people willing. We need forensic anthropologists. We need university students willing to come and give up their time. So wait for the call,” she said.

She also wants elected officials to examine why so many First Nations, Métis and Inuit children are in the care of the state.

Indigenous children make up only seven per cent of the youth population in Canada, yet they account for 52.2 per cent of children in foster care in private homes, according to 2016 census data.

Last week, Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq said foster care is “the new residential school system,” and took issue with politicians implyingthat horrors inflicted on Indigenous children by the Canadian government are simply history.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and several of his cabinet ministers acknowledged Friday that Indigenous children are indeed still being taken from their families in disproportionately high numbers and placed in foster care.

Trudeau called it an “unacceptable” reality that must end. But Dubois said the time for words is long over and that it needs to stop.

“It still hurts my person,” she said. “We’re still hurting a generation of children and the colonial, archaic systems need to change. We need to start changing the policies.”

If you are a former residential school student in distress, or have been affected by the residential school system and need help, you can contact the 24-hour Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419

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Article Topic Follows: Regional News

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