Updated July 5th, 2021 Another 182 unmarked graves were found at another residential school in Canada – at St Eugene’s Mission School near Cranbrook, British Columbia. These new findings sparked grief and outrage amongst the indigenous community in Canada leading to a series of protests this last weekend in which two statues, of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II, were toppled. This finding confirms and further deepens knowledge about the cultural genocide that was perpetrated in Canada, starting in the 1880s.
The remains of 215 children were found buried in the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School in southern British Columbia, Canada. This finding shook the country as it exposed the roots of the cultural genocide which had happened in the country between 1883 and 1996 with the establishment of residential schools for children with the aim to erase indigenous culture. Of the 215 children found, only 50 have been identified according to Stephanie Scott, executive director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
These residential schools were set up in the late 1880s and approximately 150,000 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children were taken from their families during this period and placed in these state-run boarding schools. In the 1920s attendance became mandatory and parents faced the threat of prison if they opposed the new rule. According to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society, the Roman Catholic Church was responsible for 70% of such residential schools.
Others involved included the United, Anglican, and Presbyterian churches as well as the Canadian government itself. Independent of the responsibility for the residential school, they all had the same aim: “to ‘get rid of the Indian’ in the child,” First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde says. “It was a breakdown of self, the breakdown of family, community, and nation.”
Related Articles: Indigenous Peoples and Their Rights: How They Started, Why They Matter | The Effects of Arctic Warming on Indigenous Communities
Now, after research by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), it is known that thousands of the Indigenous children sent to these schools never made it back home. So much so, that the death rate for children at residential schools was nearly five times higher than that of other Canadian schoolchildren. Chief Bellegarde says that the reports are “not surprising” since “survivors have been saying this for years and years – but nobody believed them,” he said.
Responses to the findings
Justin Trudeau, Canada’s Prime Minister, said he was “appalled” by the findings and Canada’s history involving the residential schools and pledged to “take concrete action” — but he did not provide any specific details about what this action might be. Due to the Church’s involvement in the running of the residential schools, Mr. Trudeau has asked Pope Francis to issue an official apology, which has been denied.
TRC chair Murray Sinclair said in a statement that “We know there are lots of sites similar to Kamloops that are going to come to light in the future,” and that “We need to begin to prepare ourselves for that.”
The question is: How many sites will need to be revealed before concrete action is taken? And how many more people and institutions will continue to deny it happened?
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists or contributors are their own, not those of Impakter.com. — In the Featured Photo: Children’s shoes are placed on the staircase outside Vancouver Art Gallery during a memorial event for the 215 children whose remains have been found buried at a former Kamloops residential school in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, May 29, 2021, Featured Photo Credit: Xinhua