Our thoughts are with the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation and all Indigenous communities across the country. Studies in Canadian Literature stands with all Indigenous peoples in mourning the deaths of the 215 children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School and acknowledges the suffering of all victims of the residential schools, those forcibly consigned to these institutions and subsequent generations who still suffer the aftereffects of these crimes as part of Canada’s program of genocide against Indigenous peoples. This is not only a terrible piece of Canadian history, but an ongoing reality of trauma, pain, and injustice that continues to be inflicted on Indigenous people in this country. Justice Murray Sinclair heard accounts of TRC testimonies that described mass gravesites such as the one in Kamloops, yet the Canadian government refused to look into these claims when asked by the TRC to do so. Non-Indigenous Canadians must own this history, and must do so under the leadership of Indigenous people. We at SCL stand with others in calling upon the Government of Canada to fund the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action numbers 71 through 76 regarding missing children and burial information at residential schools across Canada.
#71. We call upon all chief coroners and provincial vital statistics agencies that have not provided to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada their records on the deaths of Aboriginal children in the care of residential school authorities to make these documents available to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
#72. We call upon the federal government to allocate sufficient resources to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to allow it to develop and maintain the National Residential School Student Death Register established by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
#73. We call upon the federal government to work with churches, Aboriginal communities, and former residential school students to establish and maintain an online registry of residential school cemeteries, including, where possible, plot maps showing the location of deceased residential school children.
#74. We call upon the federal government to work with the churches and Aboriginal community leaders to inform the families of children who died at residential schools of the child's burial location, and to respond to families' wishes for appropriate commemoration ceremonies and markers, and reburial in home communities where requested.
#75. We call upon the federal government to work with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, churches, Aboriginal communities, former residential school students, and current landowners to develop and implement strategies and procedures for the ongoing identification, documentation, maintenance, commemoration, and protection of residential school cemeteries or other sites at which residential school children were buried. This is to include the provision of appropriate memorial ceremonies and commemorative markers to honour the deceased children.
#76. We call upon the parties engaged in the work of documenting, maintaining, commemorating, and protecting residential school cemeteries to adopt strategies in accordance with the following principles: The Aboriginal community most affected shall lead the development of such strategies. Information shall be sought from residential school Survivors and other Knowledge Keepers in the development of such strategies. Aboriginal protocols shall be respected before any potentially invasive technical inspection and investigation of a cemetery site.