Brandon University declares Day of Mourning and Reflection to grapple with ongoing discoveries of unmarked graves

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Brandon University will pause on Friday, July 2 for a Day of Mourning and Reflection, as unmarked graves continue to be discovered at former residential school sites across Canada.

The most recent discovery comes at the Cowessess First Nation, less than 250 km from the BU campus, where 751 unmarked graves were found. That somber discovery follows similar revelations from Kamloops as well as in Brandon.

The Day of Mourning and Reflection with give time and opportunity for grief and mourning, as well as for simply absorbing and processing the magnitude of the loss, including the vast number that are yet to be revealed.

“I am heartsick,” said BU President David Docherty, who also ordered that all campus flags be lowered to half-mast through and past Canada Day. That includes the three new Indigenous flags that were recently hoisted in front of campus, as well as the Canadian flag, the Manitoba flag, and the BU flag.

“These discoveries resurface the intense pain of residential schools for Indigenous people, and all of us who work daily in the education system must face the guilt and shame of carrying an association with such a past,” he said. “Indigenous people were targeted by the racist and colonial policies that supported such schools, where the wholesale destruction of Indigenous cultures was the terrible goal, and where Indigenous lives were treated with utter and sickening disregard. We cannot and must not look away from those truths.”

The Day of Mourning and Reflection is not a holiday or a day off and Docherty issued a challenge to staff, faculty and students, urging them to spend the day on reconciliatorily work.

“You should take time to grieve, mourn, or otherwise engage with the trauma of these horrific discoveries. Consider how they affect your friends, your colleagues, your neighbours. Educate yourself, if necessary, on the Canadian residential school system, and its painful legacy. Read or re-read the Truth and Reconciliation report,” he said.

“And, if you are able, use the Day of Mourning and Reflection to develop and propose concrete actions that will move us towards true reconciliation. For example, I would like to hear from our entire community some thoughtful ways that Brandon University can appropriately recognize these terrible discoveries in the future — either periodically, or permanently. I am especially interested in creating or supporting something for the new National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30.”

Docherty also encouraged people to wear or display orange, especially orange T-shirts, to demonstrate that the community was united.

For those who need it, support is available through Brandon University and the wider community to help you with this grief and pain.

For all:

  • The Indigenous Peoples’ Centre provides culturally sensitive services to First Nation, Metis and Inuit students, and by promoting cross–cultural understanding on campus.  We also have Knowledge Keepers you are able to connect with.  For more information or to make an appointment please follow the link or email, or  for further information.
  • The Indigenous Peoples’ Centre can also help connect you with groups in the community who will be planning ceremony.
  • The Indian Residential School Survivors Society is a resource for support and to find out how you can help or get involved. or toll Free – 1-800-721-0066
  • The Indian Residential School Survivors Society 24hr Crisis Line can provide emotional support or assistance 1 (866) 925-4419
  • Crisis Services Canada: 1-833-456-4566 or text 45645
  • Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
  • First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line: 1-855-242-3310
  • Native Youth Crisis Hotline: 1-877-209-1266

For students:

For faculty and staff:

  • Employees and eligible family members can access supports through Homewood Health. Access resources online at or by phoning their toll-free number 24/7 at 1-800-663-1142.  Online Tools, Resources & Services and Homewood’s EFAP and crisis management programs offer multilingual and fully accessible (24/7) service.
  • The EFAP program is available to employees’ spouses/partners and dependents as well. Short-term Counselling in three modalities – telephone, online and in person – while providing approaches and content that address a full range of mental health issues including but not limited to family and relationship issues, trauma, depression, anger management, life transitions and personal issues.



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