'We lost generations': North Bay Indigenous leaders hold ceremony to honour residential school victims

North Bay Mayor Al McDonald (left), city council and First Nation leaders held a small, but special, smudging ceremony at city hall for Canada 2021 to honour of children lost to residential schools. July 1/2021 (Eric Taschner/CTV News Northern Ontario)

This Canada Day will be marked differently this year as many Canadians choose to reflect on their country's dark history of residential schools.

To honour the victims and survivors of Canadian residential schools, the City of North Bay will be lighting city hall in orange lights Thursday night.

North Bay Mayor Al McDonald, city council and First Nation leaders held a small, but special, smudging ceremony.

"We had lost a generation of songs and stories," said Nipissing First Nation community leader George Couchie.

The drum was beating a significant, but somber tune, as everyone at the ceremony reflected on the horrific discoveries of human remains on the sites of former residential schools across the country.

"We want to honour and remember them. Today being Canada Day, we as a nation really need to heal," said McDonald.

Couchie's father was a residential school survivor at a school in Spanish, Ont. Through visiting former school sites, he estimates up to 50,000 children's bodies will be discovered across the country.

"We have to teach our young people in our communities about the different things they lost especially in Nipissing here," he reflected. "For Indigenous people, we need to get out and talk about our history and our culture because people are watching now."

The recent discoveries of the remains of 215 children found buried in Kamloops, the 751 unmarked graves in Saskatchewan and most recently, 182 unmarked graves found on a former residential school site outside Cranbrook,B.C. pains Couchie. He says it's time Canadians accept their country’s dark history and move forward as one people.

"We need to look at how tragic it is and how we make it positive and how do we change those things that we talk about in school," said Couchie.