Tom Jackson has released a devastating new song about children lost at residential schools
Tom Jackson is already a household name in this country, best-known as a star of the TV show North of 60 and as the founder of the annual Huron Carole benefit concert series, which has raised millions for foodbanks nationwide.
Now, he is giving us the truth about Canada’s residential school system on the haunting new track, “Lost Souls.”
“We can’t jump to reconciliation without discussion of truth,” Tom said of his latest offering — a poignant, deeply resonant message about the darkest days of Canada’s history.
“In the world of T&R, we will not find reconciliation until we find truth. The truth may be painful, but pain is part of the process of the sacred healing journey. Although the work is difficult, it will directly contribute to the health and well-being of the present and future generations. Sometimes I pray for change, and it helps me get through the darkness. But I’m not sure if just my hope helps others.”
The song and video follow the announcement in May by Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc chief Rosanne Casimir that the remains of 215 children, some believed to be as young as three, were detected on the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
Since then, searches of other former residential school sites have turned up evidence of hundreds more graves, bringing the total number of deceased children located on the sites to close to 2,000.
The so-called schools were really part of an assimilation program developed in the 1800s by the Canadian government and administered by churches. Hailed as an educational program for Indigenous children, the system focused primarily on indoctrinating them with Euro-Canadian and Christian worldviews. Residential schools in Canada — which would operate until 1996 — became synonymous with the destruction Indigenous culture.
“If you want to defeat the Indian,” Tom muses on the song, “take away their children.”
Tom, a long-time activist and humanitarian, is utilizing his platform as one of Canada’s most beloved entertainers to highlight the fear and hopelessness experienced by the children who were forced into the residential school system.
The damning anthem shifts between the point of view of the children and that of the government; quietly speaking the story on the verse, then soulfully singing the melody of the chorus. The lyrics are unfiltered and uncompromising: “’We’ll fix the problem,’ said the church, ‘Come with me, little girl, this won’t hurt.’ Someone said, ‘lift her skirt, and lay her in the dirt.’ ‘If this stays hidden, there is no villain.’”
Tom refers to “Lost Souls” as the “song of silenced children.” It highlights the grim reality of what is described by the survivors of the Residential School system, and the victim families who have been silenced for generations. His somber number includes a whispered child’s voice that delivers a haunting message at the end of the song: “they found us.”
“Working with Tom is always an honour for our company,” said Dominique Zgarka, executive vice president of the SRG-ILS Group. “This is such a powerful song and video that no words can truly portray our feelings and our nation’s embarrassment.”
“’Lost Souls’ will not determine how bright the light is of your destiny,” Tom Jackson said. “The future is in your hands. Two hundred and fifteen lost souls now have a voice. Darkness will not overcome us.”
“Lost Souls” is available now.