The disturbing discovery earlier this month of the remains of 215 children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School was described as “an unthinkable loss that was spoken about but never documented by the Kamloops Indian Residential School,” by Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation.
The knowledge of the tragic fate of these young children has resulted in ongoing grief, pain, trauma and suffering for the affected families and communities. Residential school survivors from every community have been affected, and a national debate has been sparked with the broader public. There is a reckoning to be had as the magnitude of the horrendous history of Canada’s violent colonial settler past is exposed.
It’s fair to say that everyone wants answers. Indigenous peoples have been very clear that thoughts, emotions, prayers and expressions of sympathy from government leaders is disingenuous if not based on a record of concrete action for reconciliation — and a recognition of the calls for Land Back. Every settler has this responsibility.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, led by Justice Murray Sinclair, tabled its historic report and 94 calls to action in December 2015. The calls to action have not been implemented. Six of those recommendations specifically addressed missing children and burial grounds. And, as panelist Karl Nerenberg wrote earlier this week, the TRC report is not the only federal commission that has languished without action. Going back a quarter century, another commission — the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) — provided a detailed roadmap for a root-and-branch reform of relations between the larger Canadian society and Indigenous people.
It is hard not to be cynical when the Trudeau government expresses sympathy for the children and their families while continuing to appeal the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision ordering Ottawa to compensate approximately 50,000 First Nations children who were unnecessarily placed in child welfare and separated from their families as well.
The Liberal government is also currently fighting a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision that would widen the scope of Jordan’s Principle, which states First Nations children must have access to services without jurisdictional issues creating delays.
June’s edition of Off the Hill features host Libby Davies and guests Leah Gazan, MP for Winnipeg Centre, Karl Nerenberg, rabble.ca politics reporter, and special guest Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society.
Off the Hill is rabble.ca’s thought provoking live panel on current issues of national significance, from a progressive and critically applied perspective you won’t find elsewhere. Discussions are centered on impacts of politics and policy on people, and on mobilizing to bring about progressive change. The panel is hosted by alternating hosts, Libby Davies and Robin Browne.