Central Okanagan school board chair reflects on recent tragedies

Moyra Baxter offers condolenses to residential school victims, slain Muslim family

Kelowna flags were flown at half-mast after the discovery of a residential school burial site in Kamloops. (File photo)

For the second consecutive meeting, the Central Okanagan Board of Education was called upon to offer consoling words and acknowledgement of a public tragedy.

At the May 26, board meeting, condolences were expressed by board chair Moyra Baxter to the families and students of Ecole Kelowna Senior Secondary after three Grade 12 students at the school were killed in a single-vehicle car crash on Gordon Drive the previous day.

At the June 9 meeting, Baxter was called upon to respond to the discovery of 215 Indigenous students discovered in a mass burial site at a residential school in Kamloops, along with the recent murder of a Muslim family intentionally run over by a pickup truck driver while walking along a sidewalk in London, Ont.

Baxter said the burial site reveals the reality that of the more than 150,000 Indigenous children who were removed from their homes from 1870 to 1998 and sent to residential schools, cases of mistreatment have already been well documented, while other children never returned home to their families.

“Boards of education need to be prepared to support local Indigenous communities in this time of grief and sorrow,” said Baxter.

She added the Central Okanagan School District is “firmly committed” to the concept of truth and reconciliation and remains dedicated to correcting miseducation and restoring positive and respectful relationships with Indigenous Peoples through its leadership and advocacy.

Baxter reiterated the school district’s continuing efforts to reach out in the spirit of truth and reconciliation to restore positive relationships with the Indigenous community and advocate for educational opportunities that celebrate and restore cultural-historical knowledge.

“We have been given the opportunity to correct the wrongs of the past and present and we will continue this effort in the days, weeks and years to come,” Baxter said.

The incident involving the Muslim family was a sad blow to absorb in a school district that offers specific programs and policies to welcome immigrant children and families into the Central Okanagan public school system, said Baxter.

“We are meeting tonight at the school board office, where just down the hall is a welcome centre set up to help welcome immigrant and refugee families to our school district,” Baxter said.

“A few years ago, we invited a Syrian refugee family to attend a board meeting. We pledged our support to them and they expressed their happiness at being here. I wonder how they are feeling now.”

Baxter said there is no place on this planet for hatred or discrimination of people on the basis of gender, race, sexual orientation, age or abilities.

“We send our condolences to the family and friends of those slain, and to the people of London, and we send special good wishes to the young boy who survived but has to deal with the loss of his family in one senseless act of hatred.”

READ MORE: Memorial erected to honour KSS students killed in car crash

READ MORE: Kelowna council calls for action

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