In the foreground, a bloody hand replaces the maple leaf on the Canadian flag. In the background, archival photo of an Indian Residential School
Eagleclaw Thom

July 1st, 2021: Turning grief into action

Statement
Tuesday, June 29, 2021 - 17:00

The Council of Canadians

Like you, we have been waking up to more news confirming the horrors of the Indian Residential School system.

We at the Council have been asked by our allies and supporters to consider how we approach July 1st, a day set aside to celebrate our country and its accomplishments.

Over the past month, the remains of more than 1,300 Indigenous children have been found in unmarked graves surrounding institutions they were forced into by churches and governments.

For some Canadians, this is the first time they’ve been confronted with what Indigenous communities have always known: these buildings were not schools at all. They were prisons for children who had been stolen from their homes. The people who ran these facilities perpetuated and enabled horrific abuses of all kinds against these children. Many of the children did not survive that abuse, and their families never saw them again. It’s estimated that the death toll is in the thousands and that the unmarked graves that have been found so far are just the tip of the iceberg.

As that knowledge sits heavy in our hearts, we are asking ourselves what we can do. What actions can we take to address the deep injustices of the past and present?

This year, July 1st must mark the transition from what our country has been and is, to what our society must become. We are asking you to join with us and take the day as an opportunity to listen, learn, and reflect.

What happened to these children is not ancient history. The last of these schools closed in 1996. The federal government, meanwhile, is still busy in court fighting against compensating Indigenous children who were ripped away from their homes by a chronically underfunded child welfare system. Nearly 15,000 children in foster care are Indigenous, which makes up more than 50 per cent of kids in the system.

Canada has committed genocide against Indigenous peoples, and our governments have gone out of their way to hide this truth from the public. But that campaign of deceit is finally failing.

While the country is sharing a moment of collective grief, it is also sharing in the need to come to a greater understanding of our country and our government — and a greater commitment to creating a society that works for all of us.

Meanwhile, we are witnessing what many had said was impossible: colonial statues and monuments are being taken down; over 60 municipalities are cancelling or postponing local Canada Day events; and sports teams — like the Edmonton Elks — are changing their names away from racist slurs.

This is all pointing to a new recognition of the realities of Canada’s colonial history and present.

This is a time to mourn — it’s also a time to organize. This year, we are calling on all Council of Canadians supporters to observe July 1st differently. Here are some options for learning more and taking tangible actions:

With hope and resolve,
The Council of Canadians