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Beyond Half Mast

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Over the past week Canadians were confronted with yet another dark side of history when a survey of the grounds at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School uncovered the remains of 215 children buried at the site, according to the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation.

The undocumented deaths of missing children, some as young as three, in the residential school near the city of Kamloops, in British Columbia were uncovered through ground-penetrating radar. These children were taken from their families and placed in the care of the residential school system but died there alone under questionable circumstances.

This devastating discovery has brought with it a wave of shock and sorrow but also brought to light something that needs a hard look and definitive steps for reconciliation.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) mandated by the Government of Canada exposed the systemic abuse, malnourishment and indoctrination that took place at these infamous schools through the experiences of survivors.

“It is estimated that more than 150,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children attended Indian residential schools. Sadly, conservative estimates of the number of children who died while attending these schools is placed at more than 4,100,” the TRC stated.
In 2015, the TRC report was released but it’s not clear how many of the TRC’s calls to action have been implemented.

The Assembly of First Nations’ general assessment of the progress the Government of Canada and other levels of government have made in meeting the goals set out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action released in December 2015 is at best moderate and little in majority of the recommendations.

A study by the Yellowhead Institute released in December 2019 reported only nine of 94 calls to action are complete.

The report said none of the calls to action in the area of health have been completed, and only one completed in the area labelled justice, which was a call for an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls that released its final report on June 3, 2019.

The residential schools set up by the Canadian government and administered by certain churches and religious organizations with the objective of indoctrinating Aboriginal children into the Euro-Canadian and Christian way of life started with the wrong presumption. This lacked the acceptance and acknowledgement of the indigenous culture as well as their way of life and were involuntarily forced upon the people who inhabited this land long before the Europeans arrived.

There can be another argument about what “Canadian” culture is – the one brought in by early immigrants from Europe or what these indigenous people have been living with for centuries in this land that we now call Canada. If assimilation should happen, it should have been the other way around.

The Immigrant Life wants to reiterate Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s words to understand the indigenous community, to honor the lost lives and to help create a new history that is accepting and respectful to all.

How can you do this? The Mayor suggests the following:

  • Read the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and commit yourself to the actions in it. (https://t.co/Kpqaqbf3sn?amp=1)
  • Educate yourself. Dig into the materials at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. (https://t.co/i19Tuux7KR?amp=1)
  • The City of Calgary has committed to meaningful actions. You are encouraged to read the White Goose Flying Report. (https://t.co/eJST2uj6BN?amp=1)
  • Take a free course, like this one offered by the University of Alberta. (https://t.co/FPM5gBDV7T?amp=1)
  • Teach your kids. Some good resources here from First Nations Child & Family Caring Society. (https://t.co/CHNGgnP03A?amp=1)
  • Here are some more resources. (https://t.co/OBd9yfCRod?amp=1)
  • Donate to residential school survivors in British Columbia. (https://t.co/hhBKxhCPHU?amp=1)
  • Support the excellent work of Dr. Cindy Blackstock and team. (https://t.co/I7ldhl5X5I?amp=1)
  • Support a local or national organization doing good work with survivors in your community, like Awo Taan. (https://t.co/PajoIUdvbi?amp=1)
  • Support the Aboriginal Friendship Society of Calgary. (https://t.co/5TYZ1G6ZAU?amp=1)
  • Support many others doing good work in your local community

    As saddening and uncomfortable as it is, we must make efforts to create a new history for Canada. That begins with the acknowledgement that we are in their land and the dark stains of the past can only be cleared with conscious and concrete actions.

The Immigrant Life wants to take this moment to acknowledge the dark history of Residential Schools and the scars it has left on people in the community as well as the pain it causes to those coming to terms with it now. We at The Immigrant Life, extend our solidarity and stand with the Secwépemc people, Indian Residential School Survivors, the families of the children and all communities affected by this tragedy.

It is our hope that the Canadian government does more than lowering the flags at half-mast and not shy away from its responsibility to fulfill the Call to Action made by the TRC.

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