OTTAWA -- Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole says Canada 'should be proud to put our flag back up' after it has remained at half-mast on the Peace Tower and other federal buildings for nearly three months to mark the finding of unmarked graves on the grounds of former residential schools.

The flags were ordered lowered at the end of May after ground-penetrating radar located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children in unmarked graves at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.

The finding provoked grief across Canada and then more unmarked graves were found at other former schools, including 751 discovered by Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan.

During a campaign announcement in Ottawa, O'Toole said reconciliation is important to him, and it's time to recommit to build up the country.

He repeated remarks he made around July 1 that Canada Day shouldn't be cancelled and the country shouldn't be torn down.

O'Toole says people should be proud of Canada if they want to recommit to making it better and believes the flags, which are ordered to remain at half-mast until further notice, should be raised.

"I've been talking to Indigenous leaders since I became Opposition leader. Reconciliation will be important for me as will be pride in Canada, building it up, making more opportunity for more people including Indigenous Peoples," he said Thursday at the party's broadcast studio in Ottawa.

"That will be my priority and I do think we should be proud to put our flag back up."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 26, 2021.