Every Child Matters
Responding to the graves of 215 Children at the Kamloops Residential School
The uncovering of the truth, that there are at least 215 children buried at the Kamloops residential school, sits heavy with all of us. As we have embarked on a deeper journey of wrestling with the truth of colonization and as we have listened to residential school survivors, we remember that we have often heard stories of the children who “didn’t make it”; the children who “disappeared” and of the many who died afterwards from the impacts of abuse suffered in residential schools. Why have we treated indigenous people’s lives as so much less valuable? Why do we continue to?
This week, this knowledge sits heavy on our hearts. Our hearts also burn with moral pain. We have also been called on to act.
Yesterday, we learned of the CBE’s decision to change the name of Langevin School to Riverside. We celebrate it and we are incredibly grateful for everyone who took part in the campaign. This is an important step.
And yet, symbolic actions that address the past are not enough.
What we have also learned is that while the form has changed, residential schools no longer exist, the colonial process continues today, through child services (more kids are in “care” today than during the era of residential schools), through the criminal system, ongoing systemic racism, The Indian Act, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirited, the continued exploitation of land and denial of land rights . . . Thus we must not just remember, we are called to act.
Turning to Action
So, as you gather with your members over the upcoming weeks, we ask you to engage in symbolic acts that acknowledge the truth of residential schools by wearing orange shirts, setting out shoes, teddy bears, etc., and we also request you to combine these acts with honest conversations about how we continue to participate in colonial harm against indigenous peoples.
Then, combine it with a commitment to partner in actions that bring about justice. Some places that we are working to partner with Indigenous communities to advocate for justice and that we ask you to partner with us are:
1. Policing - One of the central ways that colonialism continues is through policing, especially the over policing and under protecting of indigenous people’s. We are partnering with indigenous leaders to address this by calling on the police to appoint an indigenous liaison officer for each district.
2. Wrestling with the Truth of Colonization. At our first public action, then Chief Crowchild challenged us to first really wrestle with the truth of colonization before turning to reconciliation. From this challenge we have developed the Wrestling with the Truth of Colonization Process. We are asking each of our members to make a pledge of how many people they will recruit to go through the wrestling process over the coming year. We are also asking each member organization to make a commitment to sit down with those who go through this process and develop a concrete plan for how your organization will address the legacy of colonization.
3. Listening to the Elders, Survivors and their Communities. During our work of Truth and Reconciliation, we have learned to listen to and follow the lead of Indigenous Elders and Leaders. As an Alliance, we are making a commitment to sit down again and listen to the Elders, most of whom are residential school survivors, and listen for what action we should take next. In what ways can we be accountable to these elders, for following through on our commitments. We are asking each of you to make a commitment to take action based on the direction that they give us.
Update: The former chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Murray Sinclair, came out with a statement on the revelation of the 215 dead Indigenous children. He said that Canadians should prepare themselves for more discoveries similar to the one in Kamloops. Watch the full statement below: