We acknowledge the profound collective pain of the members of Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, all Indigenous residential school survivors and their families across Turtle Island that has been reopened this week when the remains of 215 Indigenous children where found in a mass grave on the grounds of a Catholic Church residential school in Kamloops. It is part of an ongoing and unspeakable tragedy and yet another calculated act of genocide of the Indigenous people of Turtle Island.
Today, as Elders and Indigenous leaders hold a closing ceremony in front of the Manitoba Legislative Building, ending four days of ceremony and remembrance for all those 215 little spirits who were removed from loving families and communities, we are committed to continue our fight for justice for these 215 children that were stolen and for the many more who have not yet been found. This is not an isolated incident. This is not a problem of our past. The genocide has touched all communities across this stolen land and continues today.
Today, over 90% of children taken away from families by CFS in Manitoba are Indigenous. This must stop.
Indigenous children are still forced to leave their communities to attend schools in larger cities and still face racism and violence in those communities. This must stop.
Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit, and gender non-conforming people continue to be killed or go missing, numbering in the thousands. This must stop.
There are countless unknown, unmarked graves all across this colonial settlement. Every single one of them must be repatriated to their families and communities and to their lands.
If we are to end this ongoing genocide, we must all face the truth, honour those whose lives were destroyed, and support the survivors.
Words are hollow without action. Words do not mend the broken hearts of the families who have faced this ongoing colonial violence. The roadmap to meaningful change exists and we call on all levels of government to respond not with words – with action.
We call upon all governments to:
- Take immediately action on the six Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report regarding missing children and burials (#71-76).
- We call upon all governments and stakeholders to read and implement the Native Women’s Association of Canada’s plan to end the attack against Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse people released Tuesday.
We call on the federal government to:
- Bring legal action in the International Criminal Court and prosecute individuals for international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression.
- Adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
- Equitably fund education, cultural social supports, health care, and housing, in Indigenous communities.
- Make reparations in the form of investments in Indigenous communities.
- Ensure that all Indigenous communities have access to clean drinking water.
In the coming days, we are anticipating the release of the National Action Plan on MMIWG led by the federal government. We hope that it is the launch of tangible steps forward to stop the genocide and not another set of words that will collect dust on the many dusty shelves of government reports.
We must also look at our own words and weigh them against the actions we are taking to end this genocide. We are committed to first listening to Indigenous families and to walk with them in this struggle for justice. We were able to provide food and supplies to the survivors and community members keeping the sacred fire burning at the Legislature this week, but our efforts as a community organization must be ongoing.
As a non-Indigenous agency, we are currently undertaking significant steps to ensure that we are active participants in a truth and reconciliation process. But before reconciliation must come justice. A robust review of our human resources policies and procedures is underway, with guidance from Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers. The objective is to ensure that our policies reflect anti-racist, anti-colonialist, anti-oppressive practice. A critical part of this review includes setting targets and timelines to ensure that our board, management and staff team are reflective of the community we work in and that decision making includes all members of our team.
We have Knowledge Keepers that we work with to ensure that Indigenous ceremony, teachings and healings are available to staff and community. We have recently added a CFS liaison on staff who will work to bring children home and we offer comprehensive supports rooted in Indigenous knowledge for women experiencing gender-based violence.
We have committed to working towards the TRC Calls to Action and the MMIWG Calls for Justice and report back to community annually on our progress. Next month, as we mark Reconciliation Month at our Centre, we will celebrate the leadership of Indigenous people around the world. We will continue our own education and we will continue to examine our practices with the support of Indigenous Elders so that we can continue to do better.
Actions non-Indigenous people can take right now
Non-Indigenous people must be actively engaged in calling for change across Canada. You can do this by writing a letter to your federal and provincial government representatives, calling for a forensic and independent search of all residential school properties for graves so that the children can be returned home. You can also call for them to provide clean running water to all Indigenous communities now.
You can also support the following organizations, who provide ongoing trauma support to survivors of residential schools and ongoing colonial laws, policies and institutions and work to heal the intergenerational trauma that it has caused.
- National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation: https://give.umanitoba.ca/nctr
- First Nations Child and Family Caring Society: https://lnkd.in/gyqTCgz
- Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre: https://www.mamawi.com/opportunities/donate/
- Ka Ni Kanichihk: https://www.kanikanichihk.ca/donate/
- Indigenous Women’s Healing Centre: http://iwhc.ca/donations/
- Ikwe-Widdjiitiwin Inc.: canadahelps.org/en/charities/ikwe-widdjiitiwin-inc/
- Wahbung Abinoonjiiag Inc.: https://www.canadahelps.org/…/wahbung-abinoonjiiag-inc/
- Ndinawemaaganag Endaawaad: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/10367
- Voices: Manitoba’s Youth in Care Network: https://voices.mb.ca/get-involved/donate