‘We cannot unsee what we have seen.’

Date posted: June 30, 2021

We have and are seeing the harms, oppression and destruction our ancestors and our governments have inflicted on the Indigenous peoples of this land we call Canada. This Canada Day and each day after must be days of redress, reconciliation and the building of truly equal and respectful relationships with the first peoples of this land.

Following the recovery of the 215 children’s bodies at the Kamloops Residential School in Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc territory, we all are taking stock on what we have wrought.  I use recovery because that is indeed what this amounts to – not a discovery because too many people knew of those bodies, and too many families mourned the loss of the missing children whose remains they knew to exist at these schools. 

215 bodies is now over 1,000 and there will be more. No matter how much the churches and the government wish to hide, there will be more. We at the Belfry use the 215+ not as a count but as a marker to remind us that it took the unearthing of these 215 lost children, lost futures, lost love ones to awaken our shared responsibility for these tragedies as settlers and colonizers on this land. It is a marker of the actions carried out to benefit our ancestors and to displace entire cultures. Reconciliation is, for me, not just learning but admitting the harms and taking responsibility to earn a trust we have abused.

The Belfry has committed to take actions large and small, to learn to serve and support as and where we can and has undertaken this with the marker of 215+. But it is a marker only of what is to come and we are aware that many more stolen children are to be mourned and brought home.

As a theatre company, there may be only a little we can offer in reconciliation to the Indigenous Nations, but we will commit to offer all we can. I write this from my heart and trust that it reflects the hearts of all of the Belfry staff, artists and volunteers.

We support all of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action, and actively participate in the Call to Action number 85  for “Indigenous and Non-Indigenous artists to undertake collaborative projects and produce works that contribute to the reconciliation process.”

We encourage the Government of Canada to enact processes that commit present and future governments to enact fully and without reserve all 94 calls to action of the TRC.

Ivan Habel
Executive Director

An uninvited guest on Lək̓ʷəŋən Territories

The trouble is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There’s no innocence. Either way, you’re accountable.

Arundhati Roy