Canada Day Statement
July 1, 2021
This Canada Day, CLAIHR believes there is no better opportunity to stand firmly in solidarity with Indigenous peoples and reflect upon the hundreds of Indigenous children whose remains have been found buried on the grounds of several former residential schools across Canada in the past few weeks. CLAIHR is deeply saddened at the deaths of these children, and the thousands of other Indigenous children who never made it home from residential schools.
CLAIHR also recognizes that these tragic deaths occurred as a result of a widespread and systematic racist government policy. Residential schools were part of Canada’s colonial strategy to eradicate Indigenous culture, language, community and spirit. CLAIHR believes that there is strong evidence to suggest that they constituted, at least, crimes against humanity and cultural genocide. They certainly rank among the gravest mass atrocities ever to be committed on this continent. These human rights violations are not just part of Canada’s history, but are firmly rooted in the present. The last residential school in Canada only closed in 1996, and the pain, suffering and intergenerational harm and trauma of residential schools continues to reverberate today.
CLAIHR urges the government of Canada and the churches involved to work with Aboriginal communities to fully implement all of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (“TRC”) Calls to Action, particularly 71 to 76, which deal with missing children, unmarked graves and residential school cemeteries. As the TRC itself noted, this work is far from complete. Many relevant documents and records on the deaths of Aboriginal children in the care of residential school authorities have not been shared or reviewed. Ongoing work is required to identify, document, maintain, commemorate and protect residential school cemeteries or other sites at which residential school children were buried. Thus far, graves have only been discovered at a few of the dozens of residential schools that were operated across Canada.
This is, however, only the beginning. Tangible policy change is also required to remedy the decades of violence that Canada has inflicted on Indigenous peoples through human rights abuses such as the residential schools program. For example, Canada should immediately discontinue its litigation against Indigenous children who were removed from their homes, including many survivors of residential schools, in two cases being appealed from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT). The government must also resolve all long-term drinking water advisories on public systems on reserves. In these and other respects, CLAIHR is committed to supporting Indigenous communities, where useful, in their efforts to hold the Canadian government to its obligations under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), as well as under the various international treaties it has concluded directly with First Nations across the country.
To learn more, see the resources provided by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (https://nctr.ca/records/reports/) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (http://www.trc.ca/reconciliation.html). The National Residential School Crisis Line is available 24-hours a day for survivors and family: 1-866-925-4419.
This Canada Day, CLAIHR calls on all Canadians to do their part to address the human rights violations committed against Canada’s First Peoples.