Kamloops Tragedy, Moment of Truth for CTV News Reporter – –

Kamloops Tragedy, Moment of Truth for CTV News Reporter – –

VANCOUVER – A toll is being taken from coast to coast to coast in our country as non-Indigenous Canadians grapple with the grim reality of residential schools and their lasting intergenerational trauma on the original peoples of this land.

The horrific confirmation by the Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc of 215 Indigenous children buried in anonymous graves in Kamloops offers Canada the opportunity to look within to confront who we are and who we aspire to be.

The scale of the atrocity made many people cry – and in my case, tears flowed on live television.

On Monday, May 31, I stood in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery where 215 small pairs of shoes stood, each depicting an Indigenous child stolen from his family, to die in boarding school and be buried in an unmarked grave.

I was there to do a live report on CTV News Vancouver’s latest local newscast. I have covered many tragedies in my decade as a journalist, and most of all I have been able to control my emotions while telling a story. But not this time, because with this story, the tragedy of these indigenous families strikes near our home.

When the camera turned on and I opened my mouth to speak, I unexpectedly choked, sobbing through my words as I struggled to stay calm.

After seeing myself losing control of my emotions in an unusual way on live TV, many people reached out, which inspired me to open up and reveal a side of myself that I share. rarely with anyone and never shared publicly.

Like Canada, I too have kept a deeply personal secret, surrounded by trauma – and given the enormity of the moment we face as a nation, I have decided that now is the time for me to unburden myself. by sharing what I’ve kept inside for too long. I, Ben Miljure, am an Aboriginal person with no connection to my culture and my heritage, and I am ready to tell my story.

Ben Miljure as a 5th grade student at Chief Maquinna Elementary School in East Vancouver in 1990 (Photo: John Beach)

I spent my childhood bouncing back and forth between foster families, with a few years of living with my father scattered here and there when he was able to take care of me.

My mother is an aboriginal woman from the ‘Na̱mg̱is First Nation in Alert Bay. She hasn’t been in my life since I was little.

As a child, a social worker told me that she had moved to Toronto and had left no contact information.

When I was a teenager and young adult, I felt abandoned by my mother and I was angry, but I came to accept it.

I moved on with my life, only to pursue my dream of becoming a journalist.

The early years of my career took me to the Yukon, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and exposed me to Aboriginal culture in ways I never experienced growing up. But I continued to keep my heritage a secret for the most part.

Ben Miljure in the CHON-FM press room in Whitehorse in 2011. (Photo: Ben Miljure)

I covered the Dawson City Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings in Prince Albert, listening firsthand to survivors talking about the terrible atrocities that took place at residential schools.

Their stories of emotional, physical and sexual abuse made me cry, but I still felt distant from their reality, even though these are the stories of my own people.

At every stage of my journalistic career, I have interviewed people about their missing daughters, sisters and mothers. At one point, I began to recognize similarities between what I heard and what little I knew about my own family history.

It was then that I realized that my mother may have been a missing or murdered Aboriginal woman.

I lived with this horrible possibility until just a few years ago when some of my mom’s family contacted social media and I’ve since been able to connect with my grandma, some aunts and some. cousins.

It turns out my mom is alive, but she’s been missing for two decades already. I have a very large extended Aboriginal family. But after all these years isolated from them and removed from my own culture, I have struggled to connect with anything other than a superficial level, even though I know they would like to welcome me more fully into their home. family.

So far, I haven’t yet felt emotionally equipped for this. Some of them remember me when I was a baby, but I haven’t seen any of them in person since.

As for my mother, I learned that she had moved to Toronto around 1991, and over the years since, she constantly called her own mother, my grandmother, on Christmas and Mother’s Day.

But it all suddenly came to a halt, with the last call on Christmas Day 1999.

Various family members attempted to report my mother’s disappearance to several police departments in the early 2000s, but like so many Indigenous families, they found authorities reluctant to take them seriously.

A few years ago, one of my mother’s sisters testified about her at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

According to my aunt, the investigating commissioners requested that my mother’s police file be reopened and suddenly on October 5, 2019, my mother was located, living in a long-term care home in Toronto.

She stopped calling home due to a serious health incident that impacts her speech and memory.

Although the health facility she lives in is a stone’s throw from her last known address, she has been missing for 20 years, unable to tell her caregivers that she has family in British Columbia. Our story, just another story of loss and tragedy.

After learning where my mother was, I had planned to go to Toronto to meet her, but the pandemic struck and everything was put on hold.

I don’t know what to expect when I go, if she’ll recognize me or if she already does and her face lights up every time she sees me on CTV News Channel.

But I know who I really am now: an Indigenous person cut off from my culture and heritage as a ‘Na̱mg̱is First Nation. As I get older, this awareness becomes more apparent and painful to me.

Ben Miljure, 17, in Coquitlam in 1996 (Photo: Britt Kloss)

My aunt tells me that she and my mother are both survivors of the Sixties Scoop, a period when government policies allowed child welfare authorities to easily remove Indigenous children from their families, place them in into foster homes and, in many cases, adopt them. to white families. It’s all part of a cycle of trauma and I’m finally starting to see my place in it.

It was in this context that I found myself covering the confirmation of the remains of those 215 schoolchildren buried on the grounds of Kamloops Indian Residential School, and the emotions I had so carefully controlled all these years unexpectedly surged.

I sobbed throughout the report, barely able to pronounce the words, as all the forces that have shaped my life, that of my family, and the lives of so many generations of my native compatriots seemed to swirl around me.

At first, I was embarrassed. But on reflection of the last few days, I realize that I don’t have to be ashamed, but clearly a lot of work to do.

I’m still trying to figure out what it will look like, but I know it will involve an effort to reclaim my cultural identity and learn how I fit into the ‘Na̱mg̱is First Nation, and build stronger bonds with my people.

We also have a lot of work to do as a country, to deal with the terrible atrocities that have brought us to this place where we are all burdened with a dark and shameful legacy that begins with the residential school system, leading to The Scoop of the Years. 60, and continues today with blatant inequality in child protection and criminal justice systems.

It is time for all Canadians to learn the true story of the terrible and continuing abuse inflicted on Indigenous peoples by this country, for only then can true healing and reconciliation begin. For me, this journey of understanding begins now.

Ben Miljure


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