How The Discovery At Kamloops Should Change The Future Of Canada — For The Better

Lakshmi Baskaran
6 min readJun 30, 2021


Indigenous history in Canada

The recent discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children on the site of the no-longer-in-use Kamloops Indian Residential School ignited many conversations surrounding a dark period in Canadian history. During the late 19th century, Canada set aside land for Indigenous people, while simultaneously seizing Indigenous land. As we know, ‘set aside’ is a more polite way of phrasing the dubious actions of Canada.

Years down the line, the government further exploited the community by forcing many Indigenous children to attend residential schools, away from their families and culture. These schools, often run by churches, violently prevented the use of native languages and cultural practices. Roughly, 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were made to attend these state-funded residential schools from 1831 to 1996. Many never returned home.

The Kamloops school was operated by the Roman Catholic Church until as recently as 1969. The bodies unearthed by this site had me just as enraged and hurt as many of those across Canada. These children, some as young as 3, suffered unimaginable abuse, untreated diseases and must have lived in absolute fear. The complete opposite of a carefree and safe childhood that we long to give our kids.

As a mother, simply thinking about the emotions and pain that these parents and families must have had to face, completely unprovoked and unjustified, sends chills down my spine.

What lies beyond ‘the path of reconciliation’

The discovery prompted communities across Canada to hold moments of silence to honour the children and to create makeshift memorial displays using children’s shoes, toys and candles.

The Pope was called upon to apologize, and while he didn’t, he acknowledged the ‘pains and sufferings of the past’ and encouraged the country to commit itself on to a path of reconciliation and healing. Acknowledgement, although a positive step, should have happened years ago. The Indigenous community and residential school survivors have been advocating and telling us stories for decades.

Although it is difficult to define what the ‘path of reconciliation’ looks like, I think an active step would be a shift within the education system. As we speak, First Nations groups are urging all former residential schools across Canada to be examined for signs of unmarked graves, and this will no doubt result in more moments like what we’ve witnessed in the past month. I, alongside many parents I’ve spoken with, champion the re-evaluation and revision of the curriculum. Colonization and brutal violence is a part of Canadian history. It should be studied, not to trigger and offend, though that may be a by-product, but to open up discussions. To learn, progress and ensure that we and future generations are fully equipped with knowledge.

As I watch Canada react, my mind swirls with the question: How do we learn from this and where do we go? I keep coming back to our schooling system, the same institute where many horrific events were perpetuated and histories were white-washed, and it should be the same place reformation and change should start.

Early Education of Race, Diversity and Inclusivity.

We need schools to address their history as an institution in an honest and forthcoming manner.

I’d like my daughter to be taught about her country’s history no matter how uncomfortable, in order for her to grow and become a part of a generation of change makers. Through a critical, unbiased syllabus, we can make space for and create an anti-racist environment.

In the weeks and months that followed the horrific murder of George Floyd in the States, companies, businesses and institutions rushed to center discussions on race, white privilege and the long lasting effects of colonization. In academic spaces, Black students poured out their pain and sadness, whilst online, visual guides to allyship as well as stories of childhood memories fuelled by a sense of ‘otherness’ in white-dominated neighbourhoods and environments, were being shared. Those moments and many others, created an atmosphere where non-white people were given the space and time to explore difficult conversations about race. Many companies and businesses/corporations issued statements claiming to support Black Lives and empty promises to ‘do better’ and commit to supporting non-profit organizations. However, as many of us are aware, these statements failed to make last impact beyond last summer. Which further supports the critical need and urgency to address the issue of diversity and inclusivity at the grassroots.

If these tough discussions happened in classrooms as a result of such histories becoming fully into the curriculum, I think that moments like the above wouldn’t feel so fleeting and once in a lifetime. Because many haven’t had the opportunity to be in such a space where they could share their pain without interruption, it was overwhelming. A year on and it appears that society has lost momentum and almost moved on. Waiting for another atrocity to occur in order to re-stimulate discussions. I’d hate for the younger generations to find out about their land and culture via horrific unearthings, murders and so forth. It feels as though we’re stuck in a system of shock and lack of accountability. We need action.

Despite the fact that residential schools like Kamloops are no longer in existence, the Canadian schooling system is still failing us and our children. While the First Nations Steering committee is working to make Indigenous history classes mandatory, what are the premiers that govern our provinces and territories doing?

We should be taught about the other cultures that make up the vibrant country that is Canada, so that when our children are of working ages, they do not have to deal with the ignorance of their co-workers and be given the whole ‘I had no idea’ ‘educate me’ spiel. So that children from an ethnic minority background feel empowered and supported by their country, rather than ignored and pressured to assimilate.

I’m pro change in our education system, so that our children do not have to sit in yet another Diversity and Inclusion workshop in their workplaces, so they are not hounded by visuals explaining racism and a forgotten part of history on social media.

Dismantling the long-lasting effect of a colonial education and building a new legacy

A colonial education creates a desire to disassociate with native heritage. The Kenyan writer and academic, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o believes that colonial education instills a sense of inferiority and disempowers those from minority backgrounds. In order to eliminate the harmful, lasting effects of colonial education, Canada and many other countries should teach and connect with other versions of histories and truths — specifically from colonized nations. I don’t want this article to be all doom and gloom, I’m aware that change is being made here in Canada. Two Indigenous elective courses have been introduced into some high school syllabuses in 2018, which is a huge step forward towards the goal of integrating more courses focusing on Indigenous history and covering more of Canada’s horrific past.

Teaching students about white settler colonialism will highlight the current issues of our schooling system. We will be able to address how public schools and their administration continue to erase narratives via their curriculum. It’ll impact cultures in higher educational institutes, business, companies and many lives in a positive manner.

Schools should be a safe space, a place to make mistakes, learn and develop. If our kids can’t explore here, then when and where can they have open conversations with a range of backgrounds present?

If we are to change the current curriculum, teachers should also be prepared and potentially trained to use a critical anti-racism lens to break down the syllabus. The ways that racism is experienced by Black and non-white students must be identified, acknowledged and validated. They need to feel seen and heard in the classrooms, especially when learning about particular moments in time. Once students feel safe and that their teachers/educators are invested in them and their lived experiences, they too begin to invest in themselves.

As the teacher, D. Tyler Robinson so succinctly and accurately put it, racism is systemic, so the response needs to be systemic, and I for one could not agree more.



Lakshmi Baskaran

***Tech Leader, Entrepreneur, Angel Investor***Passionate about solving complex engineering problems***