The road to accountability for the graves of Canadian boarding schools

The road to accountability for the graves of Canadian boarding schools


Warning: The following story contains details of boarding schools that may be disturbing. The Indian boarding school survivor and family crisis hotline in Canada is available 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419.

Canada- Niigaanwewidam Sinclair said that the recent discovery of the mass graves of indigenous children proved that what his community had known for a long time was correct.

Sinclair, an associate professor at the University of Manitoba, told Al Jazeera: “Every indigenous community has stories of missing children, so it’s not surprising.” “The only surprise is that Canadians are really surprised.”

There have been at least three Aboriginal people in Canada recently Hundreds of unmarked graves were found Former “boarding schools”-assimilation institutions established by governments that have been run by various churches for more than 100 years have reduced the number of indigenous children.

From the late 1800s to 1996, Canada forcibly removed 150,000 Indigenous children from their families and forced them to enter these institutions. They were forced to cut their long hair, were forbidden to speak their language, and many were physically and sexually abused. thousand It is believed to be dead.

For decades, survivors have known about their deaths, but now with more technology, The tomb is under inspection. As the indigenous people announced the exact number of missing children, a wave of grief swept through the indigenous communities.

The research results also Strong demand for accountability From Ottawa and the churches that run day-to-day operations in these institutions—especially the Roman Catholic Church, which is responsible for most of them.

But indigenous leaders said that neither the federal government nor the Catholic Church have taken enough measures to address the ongoing damage caused by these agencies — nor have they taken action to implement the long list of recommendations made by the FBI in 2015. The committee concluded that Canada had committed “cultural genocide” through the boarding school system.

“They have no plan, no means or political will to fulfill the few measures they promised. If anything, they are disappointed with the promises they have made. Their words are not in line with their actions,” Sinclair said, referring to the Canadian government. .

Call to action

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was conceived as a way to record the stories of boarding school survivors and bring justice to them, but years after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued a call to action, Canada and the Catholic Church implemented only 8 of the 94 recommendations. Article, the Yellow Head Research Institute, a research center led by aboriginal people, discovered in a report in December 2020.

However, following the inventory of the graves of indigenous children last month, Canada has made progress in four other areas. Eva Jewell, an associate researcher at the Yellow Blackhead Institute, said she is a co-author of the report, although She warned that it is not clear that these four have not yet been fully implemented.

She told Al Jazeera: “Canada can arouse political will when they encounter hot spots.”

“Canada is facing a lot of pressure to take action and do something. Suddenly people regained interest in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call for action. They have been ignored for so long. Suddenly there is this discovery, and Canadians are eager to figure it out. “Well, I thought we were doing something.””

The Royal Canadian Department of Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs told Al Jazeera in an e-mail this month that the country’s 2019 budget provided 28 million U.S. dollars (33.8 million U.S. dollars) over three years to support a report on school deaths. Suggest. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his ministers reiterated that they will continue to be committed to supporting the efforts of Indigenous communities.

But indigenous advocates say that too little has been done, and Jewell said that when tragedies make headlines, existing developments will put pressure on indigenous peoples to take action.

“There is no time to mourn, no time to sit in grief, this is just the spring of taking immediate action and seizing the opportunity, and trying to use attention and political will to push things that really matter, which will really affect the changes in our community,” she Say. “I hope to see more lasting commitments and actions, and I hope Canadians can make a commitment to this.”

Church responsibility

TRC’s call for action includes Pope Francis’ apology for the role of the Catholic Church in the boarding school system, and federal assistance to help find unmarked graves and identify remains.

But the pope did not apologize, Express “pain” This month, 215 indigenous children were found in unmarked graves at the Kamloops Indian Boarding School in western British Columbia.A few weeks later, the remains of approximately 715 indigenous people were Find Marieval Indian boarding school in Saskatchewan. Both institutions are operated by the Catholic Church, which further calls on the church to hand over all records.

“The church needs to take full responsibility for publishing the records of all its boarding schools in India, and through actions to exchange superficial comforting remarks in exchange for meaningful apologies,” Chief Stuart Philip, chairman of the Union of Indian Chiefs of British Columbia, said in a statement. statement.

People from Mosakahiken Cree Nation hug in front of the temporary monument of the former Kamloops Indian Boarding School [Cole Burston/AFP]

Donald Boren, Archbishop of Regina, the capital of Saskatchewan, said the record of boarding schools in the archdiocese is limited.But he said that the death records from 1885 to 1952 were handed over to Cowessess First Nation, the latter Unmarked grave found In Marieval. Bollen told Al Jazeera that the archdiocese also had some letters outlining when many priests started working in boarding schools in the area.

“Within the limits of the privacy law, we are sharing what we have, and we will assist the indigenous communities to communicate with religious communities that may have more information,” he said, adding that the archdiocese also provided in 2019 US$70,000 to help the first country find unmarked graves.

At the same time, the two religious groups of the Missionaries of the Immaculate Conception-operating the Marival and Kamloops institutions- Say On June 24th, they will “disclose all historical documents we keep and have about our participation in accordance with all legislation.”

When asked why Pope Francis has not yet apologized, Boren would not comment directly. He said that an indigenous delegation will travel to Rome to meet with the Pope before the end of the year. “The Pope will have the opportunity to listen to their opinions directly and then get in touch with them,” Bollen said. “This process is really important.”

Independent investigation

At the same time, the boarding school’s discovery has aroused international condemnation, including condemnation from the UN expert group, who on June 4th call Conduct a “full investigation” of the Kamloops cemetery.

Former TRC chairman Murray Sinclair also recently told The Globe and Mail that any investigation “should not be left to the government or the church, but must be negotiated with indigenous people.”

Trudeau was asked at a press conference on June 25 to what extent his government is willing to hold accountable, including whether the police or international experts should investigate. “I think the first thing we need to do is to serve the community, understand what they want, what they need, and what answers they need,” he said. Responded.

“At every step of this process, my commitment to all Canadians is that we will put the Aboriginal people and their wishes-for their loved ones, for their communities-at the core of any next steps we take. position.”

Melanie Klinkner, an associate professor at Bournemouth University and an expert on mass graves, said that the boarding school found two factors that stood out: the children’s deaths and the potential illegality of the way their bodies were handled. .

She said that when there are reports of suspicious deaths, states have a responsibility to conduct a “full and effective investigation.” “The investigation needs to be independent, it needs to be fair, it needs to be conducted in a way that has confidence in the results of the investigation. This also means that they must be able to establish accountability procedures,” Klinkner told Al Jazeera.

Klinkner added that other forms of justice are also at work in Canada, including the identification, return and re-burial of indigenous children’s remains in a culturally sensitive manner, potential historical memorials at these locations, and boarding school survivors support. “The government has a responsibility to uphold the rule of law,” she said. “That’s why I think it must be investigated.”

Sinclair of the University of Manitoba said that for Canada to make appropriate atonement for its genocide, it must return the land to its indigenous peoples, recognize treaty rights, and adopt a long-term plan to implement the TRC call to action and A report Regarding missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

“It’s time to create a country different from the one we inherited,” he said.

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