“Say it. Genocide. The time for weak-kneed, lukewarm platitudes is over. The time for honesty and truth is here.”
Aaron Paquette, Nehiyaw and Mėtis Edmontonian and City Councillor
At Public Interest Alberta, we are mourning the discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children found buried at the site of the former Kamloops Residential School. This devastating discovery is just one part of the horrors unveiled since the beginning of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission where survivors of the genocide perpetrated against Indigenous nations brought attention to the ongoing legacy of this violent system and made recommendations for restitution.
The last residential school closed in 1996 – only 25 years ago. This is not ancient history. This is living memory. This continues to impact families torn apart by separation, and the attempted destruction of culture, language, and people.
In many ways, the residential school system has not been abolished, but transformed into more insidious and diffuse forms of violence and control. Indigenous children are vastly overrepresented in Canada’s child welfare system. 52.2% of children in foster care are Indigenous, but account for only 7.7% of the child population according to Census 2016. According to open data from the Government of Alberta from March 2020, 69% of children in care are indigenous, but account for just 9.76% of all children and youth in the province.
Later in life, Indigenous people are in Canadian prisons at astronomical rates. Although Indigenous adults represent only about 3% of the adult population in Canada, they are overrepresented in admissions to provincial and territorial correctional services at 26% of admissions. Indigenous women account for 38% of those in provincial and territorial prisons. Furthermore, Indigenous women face extremely high rates of violence and are four times more likely to be murdered than the general population.
It’s clear something needs to be done, here and now. There is nothing that can be done to bring those 215 children back, or the countless others not yet discovered across residential school sites across this land.
What we can do now is contend with the present situation by understanding how we got here. We need to work in solidarity with Indigenous peoples and nations to uphold our treaty obligations, respect Indigenous sovereignty, and build a new society where no child suffers like those children did. We do have the power to forge a new relationship with how we extract resources, and how we interact nation to nation and person to person,
Most of us at Public Interest Alberta are settlers on Treaty 6 and 7 land. We have an obligation to all beings on this territory and an obligation to live in right relationship with the earth and its inhabitants. This means a commitment to enacting the Calls to Action of the TRC in our personal lives and as an organization.
As we have been reflecting on our roles as uninvited settlers and growing allies, we humbly share the following places people may start or continue on the path to learning truth and practicing reconciliation:
- Learn about the history of residential schools and the ways it impacts the present reality of Indigenous communities.
- Read the 94 Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations
- Fight for the withdrawal of the racist curriculum that whitewashes this brutal colonial history
- Join the fight for public intercity transit. A lack of intercity transit such as the withdrawal of Greyhound from Western Canada and the closure of the Saskatchewan Transit Company is a major contributor to violence against Indigenous women. with the withdrawal of Greyhound and the closure of Intercity transit for the protection of Indigenous women
IRSSS (Indian Residential School Survivors Society) Emergency Crisis Line is available 24/7 for those that may need counselling support from this weekend’s announcement.
or 24hr Crisis Line 1-866-925-4419
Trained crisis responders and counselors are available by text and phone, 24/7, and a texter can request to speak to an Indigenous crisis responder. Call 1-800-668-6868 and text 686868.