Trade union affiliates of Public Services International (PSI) in Canada join residential school survivors and Indigenous communities who are grieving after the horrifying discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves on the grounds of former residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan. We share the rage directed at the institutions and the colonial system that allowed this to happen. We demand accountability for these crimes.
Last week, the Cowessess First Nation discovered 751 unmarked graves near the Marieval Indian Residential School grounds in Saskatchewan in June. Weeks earlier, the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation reported that the remains of 215 children were discovered at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. These are not isolated incidents.
Efforts to deny or hide the genocide of Indigenous people in Canada can no longer be ignored.
According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), “Residential schools for Aboriginal people in Canada date back to the 1870s. Over 130 residential schools were located across the country, and the last school closed in 1996. These government-funded, church-run schools were set up to eliminate parental involvement in the intellectual, cultural, and spiritual development of Aboriginal children.” Former Senator Murray Sinclair, who chaired TRC, has
warned of more grim discoveries as an increasing number of sites are searched across the nation.
The discoveries have validated what residential school survivors have said for decades and confirm what was documented in the TRC’s final report. Efforts to deny or hide the genocide of Indigenous people in Canada can no longer be ignored.
The federal government must immediately end its court battle against Indigenous children, and fulfil its commitments to Indigenous peoples by urgently prioritizing and acting on all 94 TRC Calls to Action.
Immediate funding must be provided to launch investigations into all residential school sites and a commitment must be made to properly honour the victims buried at the sites. All levels of government must work together with indigenous communities on these investigations.
At a minimum, the Catholic church and all other churches involved must immediately issue apologies and release all residential school records, which may reveal the location of other unmarked burial sites.
The discovery of the mass grave demonstrates the clear need to keep Indigenous people and their ongoing struggles a part of our everyday dialogue. Though these crimes were committed in the past, we continue to see rampant human rights abuses today. The legacy and impact of colonialism, and Canada’s Indian residential school system, continue to the present. As trade unions in Canada, we stand in solidarity and join with all who struggle for justice.
June 29, 2021.