Resources for Non-Indigenous people to take action

Content warning: this page mentions death, Indigenous residential schools, and the ongoing violence committed against Indigenous peoples. If you or anyone you know is Indigenous and needs support, the Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24/7 at 1-866-925-4419.

On May 27th, Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation confirmed that the bodies of 215 Indigenous children were discovered in unmarked graves at a former Kamloops, BC residential school. [1] That's 215 children stolen from their families and communities — never to return.

Just one month later, Cowessess First Nation announced that 751 unmarked graves have been discovered on the site of the former Marieval Residential School in Saskatchewan.

The atrocities and violence these children were subject to are unthinkable — but they're not unknown. According to the Anishinabek Overview of the Indian Residential School System, the Canadian government operated 139 residential schools from the 1870s to 1996 when the last residential school closed in Saskatchewan. [2] It is estimated that "150,000 Indian, Inuit, and Métis children were forced to attend these schools." [3] This does not include residential schools operated by religious institutions or provincial governments.

Architects of the residential school system explicitly stated the purpose of residential schools was to forcibly assimilate Indigenous peoples to eliminate the knowledge of Indigenous cultures, histories and traditions. [4]

This is not a thing of the past.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) references the foster care system as a continuation of the residential school system in their 2015 report on residential schools. Indigenous children make up over half of the children currently in foster care, despite making up only 7.7% of the ‘children under 14’ population. Even today, Indigenous children are being ripped from their families and communities, albeit through a system with a different name. [5]

Although the federal government has committed to reconciliation — its policies continue to disproportionately harm Indigenous peoples, especially Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQA+ peoples. [6]

Naomi Sayers, an Indigenous lawyer, stated: “Canada has a history of legislating Indigenous communities, Indigenous bodies and Indigenous systems to essentially annihilate them, do away with them and to erase them forever.” [7] It happens through state policies like the Indian Act, the child welfare system, and the over-policing of Indigenous communities. [8]

It also occurs through the under-funding of social services, such as housing on reserves, access to essential needs like clean drinking water, affordable food, and healthcare. [9] And through the forced sterilization of Indigenous women which is meant to "undermine the ability of a group to exist." [10]

Canada was founded on the mass murder, subjugation and elimination of Indigenous peoples. This is genocide.[11]

The Canadian state continuously undermines the rights of Indigenous peoples. It is evident in the federal government spending millions to fight residential school survivors in court [12] and the B.C. government sending the RCMP into unceded territory to violently remove air, water, and land defenders in the name of resource extraction. [13]

Since European settlers set foot onto Turtle Island, Indigenous peoples have been subject to violence, oppression, and killings. Non-Indigenous people who live here still benefit from colonialism, which means we all have a role to play in reconciliation. Here are some ways you can take action:

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has 94 calls to action, including 6 which directly relate to the residential school systems. We ask that you take the time to read these calls to actions, acknowledge the privilege we all have living on stolen land, and amplify the calls for justice from Indigenous peoples — not just in moments like these, but always.

Resources
Articles and Reports Stories from Survivors: Take Action:
Sources:
[1] https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-remains-of-215-children-found-at-former-residential-school-in-british/
[2] http://www.anishinabek.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/An-Overview-of-the-IRS-System-Booklet.pdf
[3] see [2]
[4] see [2]
[5] https://www.nccih.ca/docs/health/FS-ChildWelfareCanada-EN.pdf
[6] https://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/genocide-case-inquiry-1.5160941
[7] https://globalnews.ca/news/5350772/genocide-canada-mmiwg/
[8] see [7]
[9] https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/genocide-and-indigenous-peoples-in-canada
[10] https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/sterilization-of-indigenous-women-in-canada
[11] see [9]
[12] https://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/ottawa-st-anne-residential-school-court-costs-1.5809846
[13] https://thenarwhal.ca/rcmp-wetsuweten-territory-february-2021/