Statement from Métis Nation of Ontario on recent revelations from Kamloops Indian Residential School

 
It was with great sadness to all across the Métis Nation of Ontario to hear of the tragic news from Kamloops, British Columbia, where Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation leaders have confirmed the bodies of 215 children were recently found buried in unmarked graves at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. We mourn for the children lost and we support the families eternally hurt by their passing. This news is another example of the unqualified genocide that took place over generations in this country, the ripple effects of which are still felt by Indigenous people across Canada.
 
Sadly, so many in the Métis Nation have close family members who attended residential and day school institutions and have been affected by the destructive policies that they implemented. The Government of Canada tried to undo and eliminate what made us who we are; our languages, our cultures, our beliefs and the very family and community structures that made our communities what they were. Our very presence here today shows they failed in their ultimate goal. Still, many of our community members were forever hurt and changed, and some never came back to us.
 
The remains of these 215 children just discovered represent many, many hundreds more who are as yet missing.
 
As others have pointed out, 215 children means 430 parents and 860 grandparents never knew what happened to their loved one. It means innumerable aunties, uncles, siblings, and friends who all felt that immense loss. And these 215 children are from just one of the 139 residential schools and dozens of boarding and day schools where these tragic losses have yet to be acknowledged or identified.
 
That collective pain did not go away. It continues to resonate today and has manifested itself in many ways. It is compounded by generations of crippling poverty and loss, the 60s scoop, and the ongoing reality of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit people. This is but a glimpse into the profound pain that is still felt by Métis, First Nations and Inuit communities.
 
This tragic news reminds us that the Federal government, the provinces, the churches and Canadian society still have a long way to go to arrive at true reconciliation with Indigenous nations across this land.
 
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Missing Children and Unmarked Burials Project released a full report with over 270 pages of evidence that laid out these facts to all Canadians. It identified 3,200 recorded deaths in the schools. It found that the government and the schools did not record the name of 32% of the students who died. In 23% of the cases, the government and the schools did not record the gender of the student who died. The government and the schools did not record the cause of death of 49% of students. And that doesn’t include the thousands more who are estimated to have died with no records at all.
 
There cannot be reconciliation for families and communities without closure, and there cannot be closure without governments and faith institutions doing their part to help make that happen. While we appreciate the Prime Minister lowering the flags of Parliament to half-mast, we must all call for more action from our elected leaders and civil society. Thoughts and prayers are not enough to bring true reconciliation.
 
Six years ago almost to this day, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded its work and released its final report. It made 94 Calls to Action–to date it is unclear how many of those have been completed. In December 2020, the Yellowhead Institute reported only eight Calls to Action are complete. Today, we call on Canada to do the following:
 
    1. Immediately implement the remaining TRC Calls to Action – with particular attention to Volume 4 of the Final Report;
    2. Commit to a process to engage Métis governments across Canada to ensure the Métis experience within residential, boarding and day schools is finally told and addressed;
    3. Fully implement Jordan’s Principle;
    4. Amend Canada’s laws to allow for the criminal prosecution of those who committed crimes at Residential Schools;
    5. Acknowledge that the purpose of the Residential School system was the removal of Indigenous peoples from their lands in order to make way for settlement and resource extraction – and reform and implement a timely, effective and efficient Land-Back based policy for settling indigenous land related issues, including Métis land claim policy.
Together, we must do more.

Support Lines:
    • For MNO Citizens who are in crisis or require supports, please contact the MNO’s 24-Hr Crisis Line at 1-877-767-7572.
    • A National Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected.  Access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hr national crisis line at 1-866-925-4419.