Indigenous leaders and advocates are asking Christians to lean into the teachings of Jesus to guide them in advocacy and reconciliation.

Last week at Kamloops Indian Residential School, ground-penetrating radar was used to locate the graves of 215 children, some as young as three years old, on the grounds. The news that shook the nation is drawing responses from Christians, as residential schools were run by Christian groups such as the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.

Kyle Mason, whose father, Raymond Mason is a residential school survivor, says when he learnt about the discovery, he was overcome with a variety of thoughts and emotions.

"It is a pointed reminder just how Indigenous people were treated, less than human, for generations. And the impacts of that treatment, that evil, are still felt in every corner of Canadian society today. It is not ancient history," Mason says. "It is an absolute evil that cannot be forgotten."

Kyle Mason and his family pose in front of a Manitoba Museum exhibit with his ancestor Chief Peguis' Bible behind them. (Kyle J. Mason/Facebook)Kyle Mason and his son pose in front of a Manitoba Museum exhibit with his ancestor Chief Peguis' Bible behind them. (Kyle J. Mason/Facebook)

The Indigenous leader says tens of thousands of people who attended residential schools are still alive and they, and their families, continue to face the impact. 

The Mason family continues to talk about the impacts because they, along with other Indigenous people, have had to and continue to fight for their dignity.

"I have a young son; he is seven years old. I want a better future and present for him. We can only do this if we have real, true, sometimes even blunt and difficult conversations."

Mason says the truth cannot be brushed aside.

Jimmy Thunder is the creator of Reconciliation Thunder, a non-profit that was created to help Canadians learn about reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. He is asking Christians not to shy away from talking about residential schools.

jimmy thunderJimmy Thunder is asking Christians to advocate for Indigenous people. (Supplied)

"I think that we need to be ok to recognize that this happened. As the (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada) commissioners say, we may not have personally done something to get us into this mess, but we all share the responsibility as citizens of this nation to try to clean it up together," Jimmy says.

Jimmy says as Christians, that call is even stronger.

He and his brother, Andrew, are both behind Thunder Reconciliation Ministries. Andrew says Christians are called to love and be loved by God. They can do that by following Jesus' example.

"The fact that I am Indigenous, allows me to take a moment and to reflect on me as an individual, my identity, my history, the things my ancestry and those who have come before me have gone through and experiences. I too, stop and reflect on some of these terrible pains that people have experiences and look at ways I, as a Christian, can just bring to the truth the realities of what actually happened," Andrew says.

He says Christians need to educate themselves to find the truth of what happened at residential schools, loving those who have been hurt and being ambassadors. 

"What He calls us to do is be ambassadors of reconciliation and what that really means is for us to go on a journey with our brothers and sisters, regardless of their race and ethnicity, and to come alongside them to ensure any wrongdoings in the past would be healed, and we would work through them together as believers," Andrew says.

andrew thunderAndrew Thunder is encouraging people to read the full Truth and Reconciliation report. (Supplied)

Both brothers are emphasizing the importance of empathy and education.

Jimmy is asking churches to hold a moment of silence during their service, if they have not done so already, to honour the children. 

"I really want to challenge Christians to find a way to take some time to commemorate this moment; to stop what you are doing and remember in some way," Jimmy says.

Chad McCharles, the incumbent priest at the Neepawa United-Anglican Shared Minister, says they as a church are making a statement about the deaths.

“In many churches across the denominations, the communion table is front and centre. We removed ours today and replaced it with a children’s table and set it with children’s place settings in orange, in solidarity with our Indigenous brothers and sisters," McCharles says.

One of those chairs is currently tipped over to symbolize the terror and chaos Indigenous families faced because of residential schools. McCharles is asking Christians to show their solidarity, so Indigenous people know they are being acknowledged. 

“You have to say something, you have to stand up, even if it’s wearing orange today. In my humble opinion, one way to respond is through relationship.”

He says churches did not live out the love and peace they were called to during the time of residential schools, but that can be changed today.


Residential school survivors and their families who are in distress can contact the Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.


With files from Sylvia St.Cyr