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Flag raising at B.C. legislature honours residential school survivors, lost children

The Survivors' Flag which honours the hundreds of children who never returned home from residential schools hangs out front of the legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, September 25, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito The Survivors' Flag which honours the hundreds of children who never returned home from residential schools hangs out front of the legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, September 25, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
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A brisk wind helped mark a flag-raising ceremony Monday at the British Columbia legislature honouring residential school survivors and remembering children who never came home.

The orange and white Survivors' flag will be flown on a pole at the front lawn of the legislature until sundown on Saturday, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Indigenous leaders and politicians representing B.C.'s New Democrats, BC United and Greens participated in the flag-raising ceremony ahead of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation when the flag will be flown at federal, provincial and municipal buildings across Canada.

Raj Chouhan, Speaker of the legislature, said Monday he is committed to ensuring the legislature is a welcoming, inclusive place for everybody and the flag is a symbol of that.

“The parliament buildings are a physical symbol of colonialism. Politicians have enacted laws that have done serious harm to Indigenous people of B.C.,” he said.

Songhees Nation elder Butch Dick said it was difficult for him to speak at the ceremony, but he was thankful for the opportunity.

“I realized how these days affect survivors,” said Dick, holding a walking stick adorned with an eagle feather.

“It opens doors to dark days we've gone through as survivors. It's hard to face these days and talk about these days without opening your heart to grief and shame. It's not easy.”

He said the flag raising is a “symbol of hope.”

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said the raising of the Survivors' flag at the legislature is a historic moment representing equal treatment for all people.

“We are here today to remember, to commemorate, to honour and to mourn the loss of our little angels who did not come home from residential school,” he said.

Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister Murray Rankin said the flag recognizes the resilience of Indigenous people and represents a symbol of the children who did not return home from residential schools.

“This is a day heavy with emotion for so many,” he said. “This flag tells the story of a brighter future. It's a statement of solidarity with residential school survivors and their families.”

Numerous First Nations in Canada have begun the process of searching the grounds of former residential schools for the unmarked graves of children who didn't return to their families after being forced to attend the institutions dating back to the 1800s.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2023.

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