Indigenous Children Remains Force Canada to Reconsider Its Treatment of the Indigenous Population

On May 27, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation reported finding the remains of 215 children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamploops, British Columbia. Originally constructed to force Indigenous children to assimilate into Western-centric, white culture, the Canadian residential school system idea pulled children from their homes, subjecting them to physical, emotional and sexual abuse, not to mention banning them from speaking their languages and imposing Anglo-American culture and values. The National Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) concluded in 2015 that Canada’s forceful relocation of more than 150,000 Indigenous children was an act of cultural genocide. The discovery of the unmarked graves is a reminder of Canada’s colonial history, a haunting legacy that Canada must now reflect on and change.  

Today, disproportionate numbers of Indigenous children are in foster care and many victims still remain lost to their families. Though the exact statistics of missing children or fatalities are unknown, the euphemistic rhetoric of governmental officials is evidently clear: a cycle defined by performative actions that fail to match the country’s lofty promises. As Canada continues to reconcile with its grave history, we would be remiss to ignore the historical isolation and denigration of Indigenous people in Canada no different from the Carlisle School in Pennsylvania. Parallels can similarly be drawn to the racial reckoning of the U.S. in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd. 

Shortly after the First Nations’ findings were released, the Canadian legislature recommended a 94-item list, also known as the Calls to Action, demanding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to implement policies to aid in reconciliation. Some actions include the identification of the children who died in residential schools, the erection of proper memorials and the commencement of searches to find other unmarked gravesites. Attempting to atone for a country’s historical perpetration of exploitation, violence and discrimination requires honest and sustained commitment by the government. Citizens can help in a number of ways; from spreading awareness through social media to advocating for state and county legislators to fortify and amend laws to prevent future atrocities. The ramifications of this legacy will remain present in society until we recognize and confront our mistakes and take steps to ensure progress moving forward.