Calls To Cancel Canada Day As Nation Reels Over Indigenous Children Mass Graves

Canada, First Nations -

Calls To Cancel Canada Day As Nation Reels Over Indigenous Children Mass Graves

In response to recent discoveries of unmarked graves at three former residential schools, thousands gathered on Parliament Hill to demand "Cancel Canada Day". Thousands of people, many wearing orange shirts, shouted "Shame on Canada", "No pride on genocide," and "Bring them home". People across Canada have shown solidarity and all First Nations communities have organized multiple vigils, memorials, and protests honouring the child victims of the church run residential schools. Governments have promised to help Indigenous groups search for more victims. The findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) suggest additional bodies will be found. Some experts say, the number of bodies remaining to be found could be in the thousands.

 

Who organized the protest at Parliament Hill?

The Anishinabek nation and Idle No More organized the "#CancelCanadaDay" march as a way to "honour all of the lives lost to the Canadian state." In a statement on Facebook the human rights group said, "We will not celebrate the ongoing genocide within Canada against Indigenous people ... Instead we will gather to honour all of the lives lost to the Canadian state, including the many lives lost to residential schools." The Anishinaabek Nation is encouraging people to wear orange on July 1 to honour the memories of those who died or went missing at Catholic church-run residential schools. The orange shirts became a symbol of the protest movement after testimony of residential school survivor Phyllis Jack Webstad. She told her story of being forced to remove the new orange shirt her grandmother had bought her on her first day at St. Joseph Mission Residential School.

 

How are Canadian's reacting?

Canadian flags continue fly at half-mast nationwide in recognition of the discovery of children's remains at residential schools ran by the Catholic Church in Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Last week, a memorial started on Parliament Hill following the discovery of 751 unmarked graves at a former residential school in Saskatchewan. The memorial in front of the Centennial Flame includes shoes, stuffed animals and messages. Canada Day events have been cancelled across multiple cities for a second straight year due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. This year many Canadians are choosing to use Canada Day as a day of national self-reflection and recognition of Indigenous genocide.

In a statement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged that for some July 1, is "not yet a day of celebration." "The horrific findings of the remains of hundreds of children at the sites of former residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan have rightly pressed us to reflect on our country's historic failures, and the injustices that still exist for Indigenous peoples and may others in Canada," 

"We as Canadians must be honest with ourselves about our past."

 

What did Canadian's discover?
Recently in Saskatchewan at least 751 unmarked graves were found on the site of Marieval Indian Residential School, which was run by the Catholic Church. Less than a month beforehand the remains of as many as 215 children were also found in unmarked graves, at the site of a former Catholic Church run residential school in Kamloops, B.C. A Canadian Indigenous group, The Lower Kootenay Band, said it has found at least 182 human remains in unmarked graves near Cranbrook, British Columbia. The grave site is close to the former St. Eugene’s Mission School, which was operated by the Roman Catholic Church from 1912 until the early 1970s. The Kamloops discovery led to a national self-reflection of Canada’s residential schools’ legacy and renewed calls to search the grounds of all former residential schools across North America.

What were residential schools?

In Canada, the Indian residential school system was a network of at least 130 boarding schools set up to educate and subjugate Indigenous peoples. The residential school network was funded by the Canadian government's Department of Indian Affairs and administered by various churches. The Catholic Church has historically been heinous towards vulnerable people worldwide, has carried out gynocides and involved itself in multiple genocides, and has centuries of instances of abuse against women and children. 

Two primary objectives of the residential school system were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their home and families to erase their traditions and cultures and to ultimately assimilate them. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimates more than 150,000 children attended residential schools in Canada from the 1830s to 1996. Children at residential schools died at a far higher rate than those in the general population. In nearly a third of the deaths, the name of the child wasn’t recorded; nearly half did not list a cause of death. When the commission concluded in 2015, it had determined that at least 3,200 children died in residential schools. Since 2015, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has added 980 names to its memorial register which steadily keeps growing.

The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of a residential school experience. Support is available at 1-866-925-4419.

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