‘People Are Hurt’: Hotline for Residential School Survivors Overwhelmed by Phone Calls

TORONTO – A support line to help survivors of Canada’s residential school system has been inundated with appeals as Indigenous peoples fight the discovery of anonymous graves.

It has been nearly a month since the remains of 215 Indigenous children were found at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia. Since then, a further 715 anonymous graves have been discovered – this time in Saskatchewan. The findings left some people in shock, but for those Indigenous people who knew and lived the truth, the hurt and trauma are all the more poignant.

“People are hurt,” says Nola Jeffrey, executive director of the Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society’s addiction and trauma center in Lantzville, British Columbia.

Jeffrey told CTV News on Saturday that the center operates a support line that aims to offer compassionate help to residential school survivors to deal with and speak out about their trauma. She says the helpline has been inundated with phone calls since the discovery of anonymous graves last month.

“There are people who, even if they know the truth, it is still a shock to the body to find so many children,” she explained.

On Friday, following the most recent discovery in Saskatchewan, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a press conference in which he said Canadians were “horrified and ashamed”.

In an earlier statement released Thursday evening, the Prime Minister also noted that Canada has a responsibility to shoulder, saying: “The discoveries at Marieval and Kamloops are part of a larger tragedy. They are a shameful reminder of the systemic racism, discrimination and injustice that Indigenous peoples have faced – and continue to face – in this country. “

He added: “Together we must recognize this truth, learn from our past and walk the common path of reconciliation, so that we can build a better future. “

For Nola Jeffrey, the path to reconciliation involves continued support for survivors and their families. She also says the government has a duty to find all anonymous graves and identify the remains.

“It impacts everyone,” Jeffrey said. “Schools are a place where you go to learn, where you are nurtured, where your gifts are put forward, where you are taken care of. And that didn’t happen in those places; it was exactly the opposite.


If you are a former residential school student in distress, or have been affected by the residential school system and need assistance, you can contact the Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419, or Indian Residential School. Survivors Society toll-free line at 1-800-721-0066.

Additional Aboriginal mental health support and resources are available here.

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