Ravi Joshi and Christina Warner
Interim Co-Executive Directors
June 24th update: Since issuing this statement, there have been hundreds more children’s remains found at Indian Residential School sites across the country. While these events are not shocking or a surprise to those who have been documenting and advocating for the search for these remains, the news is no less painful. As such we are conveying our support to those impacted, listening, and ensuring our next steps are informed by their guidance.
We have all been devastated by the news of 215 Indigenous children’s remains being found at the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School.
We have spent time reaching out to Indigenous staff and board members who have all been affected by the genocide committed by the Canadian state in the form of Indian residential schools.
Our Digital Campaigns Officer, Eagleclaw Thom, contributed a powerful blog post last week that built on those conversations, as well as his own lived experience, research, and documentary film-making expertise. We are grateful to each of our community members, staff, and board who contributed to this process.
Here’s what we’ve heard:
These children belonged to families and communities that have been grieving their loss since the day they were first abducted and forcefully taken away from them – long before they were murdered. Many survivors have detailed their experiences within the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. That pain and sadness continues to reverberate to this day, across generations.
Meanwhile, the agenda of the residential school system has lived on in the overwhelming criminalization and incarceration of Indigenous youth, as Eagleclaw documents in his recent post. Indian residential schools also split up families; removed Indigenous children from their land, communities, and cultures; and intentionally stripped children of their traditional languages and knowledge, thereby ensuring that settler churches and government institutions maintained control over resources and cultural expressions.
These patterns of forced family separation also took place through the 60s Scoop, and they continue to manifest through Canada’s child-welfare system and the imprisonment of Indigenous youth.
Indigenous peoples have known and resisted for years the reality of Indian residential schools and their horrifying impact on children, families, communities, and nations.
What we learned is that for many Indigenous people, while news of the remains of the 215 children was unimaginably saddening, it was not shocking. Indigenous peoples and communities have known and have been voicing and documenting, often with very specific details, the locations, names, and stories of children who were brutally murdered at the hands of the Canadian state — through the institutions of the Indian residential school system.
Settlers in Canada have a responsibility to learn about the truths of Indian residential schools – and about how the colonial logic that drove them still underlies the violent displacement of Indigenous peoples today. Racism and colonialism have robbed Indigenous peoples of control over their lives, lands, and resources. We can’t address the impact of these colonial institutions without dismantling them.
Here are resources and links to Indigenous-led campaigns for justice:
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action
Final report: National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Calls to Action Accountability: A 2020 Status Update on Reconciliation (Yellowhead Institute)
The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation
Indigenous Canada: A free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that explores Indigenous histories and contemporary issues in Canada
Settlers Take Action (resources compiled by the On Canada Project)
The Native Land you live on
Here’s what we commit to doing:
As with much of society, we at the Council of Canadians are working to address our own internal policies and practices that are barriers to the full participation and recognition of work done by Indigenous, Black, and all staff who are people of colour. This builds on a mandate from the Council of Canadians Board, passed in August 2020. We also carry this mandate from our staff, chapters, and broader membership who are eager to see the Council reflect the diversity of Canadian society.
Internally, we will build upon ongoing staff work to ensure we identify and adjust our policies to remove barriers and build an equitable workplace for all who are part of our community. We have begun this work with our hiring processes and are committed to expanding this internal work in the coming months.
Indigenous self-determination and autonomy were stripped away through the Indian residential school system and an agenda of genocide and colonialism. We will continue to make the connections between resistance to corporate-led resource extraction projects and Indigenous rights, sovereignty, and dignity.
We are working to centre Indigenous sovereignty in our policy positions and follow the lead of communities directly impacted by the issues we organize and campaign on. We will continue to do this by supporting Indigenous struggles to stop unwanted projects and enforce their rights to the land.
In addition to the above listed resources, we urge you to read and understand the 94 Calls to Action developed from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.