On May 28, the world learned 215 new reasons why Canada is guilty of genocide.
The announcement that a mass grave containing the remains of 215 Indigenous children on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. confirms what many survivors told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) throughout years of heartbreaking interviews.
The final report contained numerous accounts of children and infants who were left in unmarked graves, in many cases killed at the hands of nuns and priests who ran the schools.
Until the end of last month, the federal government and the Catholic Church have been able to pay little heed to the experience of survivors because it was just testimony.
Now that the United Nations Human Rights Office is calling on all levels of Canadian governments to investigate the deaths of Indigenous children at residential schools and to intensify efforts to find those who are missing, it’s not a matter of if but when more evidence of Canada’s atrocities will be unearthed. While the TRC identified at least 3,200 Indigenous children who died at residential schools, Murray Sinclair, the commission’s former chair, now believes that number could be as high as 25,000.
Just four years after the final TRC report accused of Canada of “cultural genocide,” the final report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls took that conclusion one step further by pointing out that the country continues to commit colonial genocide to this day.
Broken treaties, chronic underfunding of Indigenous healthcare, Nunavut’s criminally negligent housing shortage, the broken foster care system, the high incarceration rates, the lack of clean drinking water, inadequately monitored resource extraction and environmental destruction of traditional lands.
Make no mistake, these are the hallmarks of a country bent on assimilating and erasing the rich mosaic of Indigenous identities that continue to inhabit Turtle Island by robbing them of basic human rights.
What made residential schools so evil is that the federal government did not seek to control a population through warfare, but by targeting children. By kidnapping students from their parents and trying to “kill the Indian” inside them, the church and federal government were ensuring that generations of Indigenous people would become traumatized, marginalized and criminalized. The fact that this system of abuse and indoctrination remained in place in Canada until 1996, shows just how insidious and grotesque it is.
Despite the atrocities which it is guilty of, the Catholic church continues to wield disproportionate influence over large segments of Canadian society.
If Canada is going to deliver on the 94 calls to action in the TRC, it’s going to take a lot more than crocodile tears and slaps on the wrist. The time has come to hold the guilty accountable and dismantle the institutions that have enabled settlers to commit genocide against First Nations, Metis and Inuit.