Thunder Bay – INDIGENOUS – Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare states, “The recent discovery at Cowessess First Nation is another painful reminder of the historic injustices and abhorrent actions against Indigenous people across Canada,” said Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare. “On behalf of the Chiefs of Ontario, we are deeply saddened by this news. We are sending our prayers and condolences to the families of the 751 children and adults lost, and survivors of the former Marieval Indian Residential School.”
“This is a country that is built on institutionalized racism and genocide of Indigenous people. The tragic legacy and devastating effects of these residential schools are deeply rooted within our communities, just as systemic racism and prejudice against Indigenous people are rooted in Canadian society as a result.
“I echo the strong words of Chief Cadmus Delorme of Cowessess First Nation: ‘We must put down our ignorance and accidental racism of not addressing the truth of the relationship this country has with Indigenous people. We are not asking for pity, we are asking for understanding.’
“On behalf of the Chiefs in Ontario, we call for an immediate transformative action plan that reflects the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. We must have justice for the countless lives lost across this country. The stories of these children will be told and Canada must be prepared to atone for their role in these atrocities.
“I am calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the federal government and the provincial governments to declare a national day of mourning on July 1, in honour of the children whose remains were found on former residential school sites in Saskatchewan, British Columbia and across the country. I ask all Canadians to stand shoulder to shoulder with us on July 1 as a day of reflection as we work to collectively heal ourselves, families and Nations.”
Outgoing Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde says, “First Nations are greatly pained by this latest finding of unmarked graves on the site of an Indian Residential School. We grieve over the many children who never made it home after their forcible removal from their families and people. We must never forget our children were targeted and placed in a racist system purposely designed to stamp out every aspect of who we are – our languages, our cultures, our teachings. I support Chief Delorme in his call for healing and for an apology from His Holiness, Pope Francis.
“The Assembly of First Nations supports all First Nations seeking the truth and the full implementation of all the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I know that First Nations across this country will continue the work to find, honour and commemorate the lost little ones. I call on all governments to support First Nations governments in this work and for all governments and the Catholic Church to respond to calls for resources and for information in their possession.”
Bellegarde adds, “The families and the nations of all the children who never came home have the right to truth – and to know who lies in these unmarked graves and what happened to them. First Nations will continue our search for our little ones and to honour and commemorate them. I thank the many Canadians, and members of the international community, who have written to the Assembly of First Nations to express their condolences and concern.”
Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Acting Grand Chief Walter Naveau, on behalf of the Executive Council, expresses heartfelt condolences following the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan:
“On this sad day we send love and prayers to the families of these innocent youth, Chief Cadmus Delorme, and the entire Cowessess community. I thank them for their perseverance and determination to identify the final resting places of their beloved children.
“The years of trauma and abuse through the IRS system were caused by federal policies and the church and continues to be felt to this day. Canada and the church must act on their responsibility to help our people heal. We must have meaningful engagement with our federal Treaty partner and the Catholic Church with a strong, honest commitment to work together in a good way. Our children were taken away from us and we need to bring them home.
“It is difficult to come to grips with the magnitude of these tragedies – all of the children who never made it home from the Residential Schools, and only many years later are finally being found. But the outpouring of emotion from First Nations and Canadians from coast to coast shows how truth and understanding can help bring us together and unite as a country.
“This is an opportunity for Canada to act like the great nation it claims to be by helping the children, mothers, fathers, the kokums and mushums. We know there will be more news like this, and we must be prepared to face the truth together. I urge the Prime Minister, his ministers, and all Canadians to walk the Good Red Road with us.”
“The discovery near Cowessess follows the May 2021 discovery of the final resting places of 215 children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, which sparked national calls for the proper identification of all youth who never made it home from Residential Schools.”
IRS Survivors, their families, and anyone requiring emotional support or assistance can contact:
IRS Survivors Society at 1-800-721-0066 (toll-free)
IRS Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419
NAN Hope 1-844-NAN-HOPE (626-4673)