VANCOUVR – The West Coast Coalition Against Racism extends its deepest sorrow to the Indigenous Peoples of Canada on the discovery of remains of 215 children found in a mass grave at a former residential school in Kamloops. Unmarked graves containing the bodies of 215 children, whose identities are unknown and whose deaths are undocumented, can only be described as evidence of genocide.
It is Canada’s shame that these children died after being taken from their families by the federal government and put into what was supposed to be the care of the Catholic Church over the 88-year period that the Kamloops Indian Residential School operated, beginning in 1890. Once Canada’s largest residential school, with 500 students enrolled in the 1950s, it was run by the Catholic Church for 79 years. The federal government assumed control over the school for the nine years before it was closed in 1978. There is evidence from the survivors that some of the Indigenous children at the school were whipped for speaking their own language.
This horrifying revelation should motivate the Trudeau government to change course and dedicate the resources and efforts currently being put toward challenging the 2016 Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision to investing in First Nations’ children and fulfilling the Calls to Action contained in the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
WCCAR strongly supports the demand put forward by First Nations organizations that all governments provide the resources necessary to conduct thorough investigations into former residential school sites and to take any and all action available to hold perpetrators – individuals and institutions — accountable for their actions.
We add our voice to the demand that the Canadian government:
- carry out a swift and comprehensive campaign to see where more such graves exist;
- redirect enormous amounts of money currently spent on the military to build proper housing, schools, hospitals, infrastructure and environmentally sustainable development projects on Indigenous lands; and
- fully adhere to the spirit and the letter of the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which was adopted in 2007.
In conclusion, WCCAR believes that the terrible revelations we have witnessed this past week must motivate the government and people of Canada to begin to take the steps that are needed to redress the entire horrific legacy of settler colonialism.