Maritime residential school survivors react to latest discovery in Saskatchewan
It’s a number so large and so horrific that it’s hard to wrap one’s head around.
“We could have been one of those victims, easily”, says Yvonne Meunier, a survivor of the Shubenacadie Residential School in Nova Scotia.
Meunier says, for context, the 751 unmarked graves found on the site of the former residential school in Saskatchewan is a little more than the population of the reserve she grew up on in New Brunswick.
While that is a sobering statistic, she says the discovery of the remains – and those in Kamloops, B.C. – comes with feelings of relief, and vindication, too.
“I really believe that those children, you know, that were buried, that they whispered amongst themselves, ‘They have found us. They have found us,’” Meunier told CTV Atlantic.
Tuma Young is the director of the Marshall Legal Institute at Cape Breton University. Just this past weekend, he was named the first Indigenous chair of the Nova Scotia Barristers Society.
He’s also a survivor of the Eskasoni Federal Indian Day School.
Young says the latest discovery in Saskatchewan sheds further light on what he and others experienced.
“The TRC Report even devoted a whole chapter to it – Chapter Four. And there’s a number of calls to actions that addressed this issue. So, we all knew. We’re not shocked. But still, it’s a very sad and tragic news that came out today," Young says.
While residential school survivors may not be surprised, it’s a lot to handle in a short period of time. In May, the remains of 215 children were discovered near the residential school in Kamloops.
“A lot of survivors are getting triggered and what we need, is to try and help them”, Young says.
The discoveries have plenty of non-Indigenous people wondering what they can do to show support and try to enact change.
“Well the first thing to do is read the TRC Report and if that’s too much, read the calls to action," suggested Tuma Young.
“We have now woken up the true story," adds Yvonne Meunier. “And we have allies and now people are becoming more educated about our history, our culture.”
With investigations are planned at other residential school sites across the country, Meunier is expecting the discovery of a lot more remains.
“There are going to be more that are going to be found and my heart is really broken, and I just keep praying and smudging, and I pray for forgiveness.”