Letter to the SFU Beedie Community Mourning the Loss of 215 Children

Jun 01, 2021

Flags at Simon Fraser University will be flown at half mast from May 30 to June 8 to honour the lives and memories of these 215 children; one hour for every child whose life was taken.

Dear SFU Beedie friends, students and faculty:

Our hearts here at SFU’s Beedie School of Business are very heavy with the news coming out from Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc as we mourn the 215 children whose graves were discovered at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. We want to honour and support our Indigenous Business Leadership Executive MBA (IBL EMBA) students, alumni, faculty and staff who have been impacted by this tragedy. We also want to honour the many families, communities and Nations that these children are from.

The existence of mass unmarked graves at residential schools has been known about for a long time, particularly by the Indian Residential School survivors themselves, many of whom are still alive, who witnessed and experienced the atrocities firsthand. It is important to remember that this is only one of the hundreds of schools across Canada. At this time, there is sacred work unfolding. Indigenous communities are grieving one of our country’s most horrific national truths, working to conduct appropriate funeral ceremonies for the children that did not happen when they passed away, and are grappling with the specificity of this finding, i.e. unearthing stories within families today whose children did not come home and working with families to close the circle for them. We have Indigenous colleagues and students at SFU Beedie whose loved ones are directly implicated in these findings.

This is a time to show support, increase your understanding and walk lightly with all our Indigenous friends, both inside SFU Beedie and out.

Joy Johnson, SFU President and Vice-Chancellor, shared a message of condolence with links to support on social media and led a university-wide moment of silence at 2:15pm yesterday afternoon. Flags at SFU will be flown at half-mast from May 30th to June 8th — one hour for each of the 215 children whose life was taken.

Within the SFU Beedie Indigenous program, the focus has been on our current EMBA IBL students. The IBL team immediately reached out to community members, students and alumni. IBL program staff worked through the weekend: to support individuals who reached out, make arrangements for a circle that took place Monday afternoon, create a list of resources that students could draw on, and to arrange for a Squamish Knowledge Keeper to attend class on Tuesday morning.

As such, I would like to express gratitude on behalf of our leadership team and the school, for the extraordinary wisdom, compassion and care that our IBL program leaders have shown. Additionally, I would like to invite us all to do better as a business school and to ensure we are teaching our students about how to become better business leaders inclusive of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions Call to Action 92.

If you have need of support, there are resources available:

The First Nations Health Authority offers support specifically for survivors and families who have been directly impacted by the Indian Residential School system.

There is a long path ahead for us to walk together. If there is more that we can do to meet your needs, please reach out to me to begin that conversation.

Professor & Dean pro tem,
Beedie School of Business