Investigate the grounds of every residential school in Canada
June 3, 2021 – Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Human Rights Commission
As the grief and pain of last week’s discovery of the remains of 215 children at the Kamloops Residential School continue to ripple across the country, Marie-Claude Landry, Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, issues the following statement:
The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) joins the call for a thorough investigation of all former residential school sites. We stand with residential school survivors and their families, Indigenous leaders and communities, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights who have called for prompt and meaningful action.
For decades, residential school survivors, their families, and communities have insisted that many children were buried in unmarked graves on school grounds. The official records kept by school administrators – which have always been questionable – told a different story about what happened to the children who never came home. Indigenous people have had to fight to be heard and to be believed in the face of racist indifference and callous disregard.
Guided by the stories and testimony of survivors, the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc First Nation has shown through the discovery of the mass grave that many of the deaths of Indigenous children in residential schools were covered up. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimates that the real number of deaths in residential schools across Canada far exceeds the known total.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action include six calls related to missing children and burial information. The CHRC calls for implementation of these Calls to Action without delay. Governments and churches must work with and support Indigenous communities to locate other unmarked graves, and to ensure that the families and communities of these children are informed and able to commemorate their lost loved ones as they deem appropriate. These efforts must be led by Indigenous peoples, informed by their wishes, and respectful of their rights.
Residential school survivors and Indigenous communities have long carried the pain and grief from firsthand knowledge of what happened to these children. It is long past time for all non-Indigenous people in Canada to take on our share of this knowledge, and the resulting responsibility. Without truth, there can be no reconciliation.
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