June is National Indigenous History Month and today, June 21, is National Indigenous Peoples Day. It is a time for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the rich heritage, diverse cultures and unique contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
While there is much to celebrate, there is also much to grieve.
Full transparency is needed to discover the truth behind Canada’s residential school tragedies
Last month, we learned about the terrible news of the discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School on the lands of the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation in British Columbia. Since this tragic news broke, other bodies have been found near former residential schools in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
An estimated 150,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children attended one of the more than 130 residential schools established in Canada between 1831 and 1996. The schools were government-funded and mostly run by the Catholic church. These children were taken from their families to be stripped of their culture, heritage, traditions and language with the goal of assimilating these children into a predominately European/western culture. These innocent children were subjected to physical and sexual abuse, and thousands died. The exact number is not known. In the 1950’s, Indigenous children attending a residential school had a greater likelihood of dying in that school than did soldiers fighting in both of the world wars.
The only way to discover the truth and support true reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples is to have full transparency and accountability. This begins with the Catholic church providing full disclosure of all records related to the residential schools. Without knowing the truth, it will be impossible to bring any meaningful closure to the thousands of Indigenous families who lost a child/children.
Last week, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that the province would invest $10 million over the next three years on efforts to identify, investigate, protect and commemorate burial sites at former residential schools in the province. The federal government has set aside $27.1 million to assist Indigenous communities in identifying unmarked burial sites at former residential schools.
IUOE Local 793 stands with Indigenous people, both across the country and within our Union membership, as they call for action to bring truth and reconciliation to address the horrific tragedies that occurred at Canada’s residential schools.