Statement from MPP Sol Mamakwa on Kamloops Residential School

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Alert Bay, British Columbia, school, 1885. The federal government has estimated that over 150,000 students attended Canada’s residential schools. Library and Archives Canada, George Dawson, PA-037934.
Alert Bay, British Columbia, school, 1885. The federal government has estimated that over 150,000 students attended Canada’s residential schools. Library and Archives Canada, George Dawson, PA-037934.

SIOUX LOOKOUT – MPP Sol Mamakwa (Kiiwetinoong), the NDP’s critic for Indigenous and Treaty Relations, issued the following statement in response to the remains of 215 Indigenous children being found buried on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia:

“Indigenous Peoples across Canada are hurting. We are in pain, remembering all those we have lost and the destruction of what residential schools has left behind. The discovery of those precious 215 lost children – our children – has underscored the daunting amount of work to be done to ensure justice, dignity and equity for our people.

All Indigenous Peoples living today in Canada are survivors of Canada’s tools of genocide. We are survivors of Indian residential schools, survivors of the Indian Act, survivors of the Sixties Scoop and survivors of ongoing systemic racism which attempts to erase us. But we are still here.

The death of our children is a crime against humanity, but Canada has never treated it as such. This country must own up to its past, as must all of its governments and institutions.

I am calling on Ontario and the Canadian government to work with all First Nations at the sites of the schools and look for our lost children. It is a great open secret that our children lie on the properties of the former schools – an open secret that Canadians can no longer look away from. In keeping with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Missing Children Projects, every school site must be searched for the graves of our ancestors.

Canada must also demand apologies from those who helped commit these heinous crimes. Pope Francis, the Catholic Church and all other churches involved must own up to their part in this genocide, apologize and offer financial restitution to survivors and the families of those lost.

Finally, we must remember that Canada’s governments at every level have roles to play, responsibilities and treaty obligations. I am calling on the government of Ontario to immediately lower the flags at all provincial buildings to half-mast to honour the 215 children lost, and will call for a moment of silence tomorrow at Queens Park. I will also be calling on the government of Ontario to institute an annual Day of Mourning and Remembrance for those we lost to residential schools, and to survivors. Let this be the first step towards an honest reckoning with the past by Ontario, by Canada, and all the people who call this land home.”