'Every Child Matters': Algonquin College honours children who died at Kamloops residential school

Algonquin College hosted "Every Child Matters", a virtual gathering to honour the 215 children who died at a B.C. residential school. (Katie Griffin/CTV News Ottawa)

Music, poetry, and remarks from a Cree Elder were part of a virtual gathering by Algonquin College on Thursday to honour the 215 children who died at a residential school in Kamloops, B.C.  

"This is not a long time ago, this is not ancient history, this is active Canadian narrative," said Ron Deganadus McLester, the college's vice president of Truth, Reconciliation & Indigenization.  

The gathering was called "Every Child Matters" and also included two minutes and 15 seconds of silence representing each of the young lives lost. 

"For Canadians the news of 215 children found on the grounds of the Kamloops Residential School seems unbelievable and part of their history, your history," said Elder Bertha Skye. "For Indigenous people, for us, this is part of our family stories." 

Skye worked as a cook at four residential schools. She was praised for her kindness towards kids, including those who had their hair cut off.   

"She would try to tidy them up a bit because they'd look so pitiful and so scared and so she'd help them, she was known to take care of those kids when she could to help watch over them and protect them," said Deganadus McLester.

Algonquin College President Claude Brulé said the college has donated 215 items of clothing to Minwaashin Lodge, an Indigenous Women's Support Centre. 

"Minwaashin Lodge provides a range of services to First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and children regardless of status, who are survivors of domestic and other forms of violence and who may also be suffering the effects of the residential school system," he said. 

"When I ask myself as a settler what is it that can I do, what action is it that I can take so that…it's never repeated nor forgotten, I commit to listening, I commit to learning, I commit to seeking to understand and to truly understand the truth," said Diane McCutcheon, the vice president of human resources. 

It's a promise giving Elder Skye hope.

"Today while I grieve along with my people, I also see joy," she said. "We move forward with determination that you and I demand action…justice to create a history for your grandchildren and mine."