Indigenous leaders are calling on all Canadians to use July 1st as a day to honour former Residential Schools victims and survivors.
By Maryam Razzaq
In the past couple months, Canada dealt with several somber reminders of one of the most gruesome, violent, and darkest chapter in its history of the federation, prompting many communities across the nation to lower the Canadian flag at half-mast to honour the Indigenous children who never made it home.
Last month, the remains of 215 children were found in a mass unmarked grave site at a former Residential School in Kamloops, British Colombia. A couple weeks ago, 104 graves of Indigenous children were discovered in Brandon, Manitoba. This past week, The Cowessess First Nation discovered 715 unmarked graves at the former Marival Indian Residential School in southern Saskatchewan. The latest shocking discovery came yesterday, with 182 unmarked graves found near a former Residential School in Cranbrook, British Colombia.
“The recent discovery of Cowessess First Nation is another painful reminder of the historic injustices and abhorrent actions against Indigenous people across Canada. This is a country that is built on institutionalized racism and genocide of Indigenous people. The tragic legacy and devastating effects of these residential schools are deeply rooted within our communities, just as systemic racism and prejudice against Indigenous people are rooted in Canadian society as a result” said Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare.
There have been several calls to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the federal government and provincial governments to declare July 1 as a day of mourning for the children whose remains are being found across the country.
“We must call on Canada to recognize July 1 as a day of mourning. Now is not the time to celebrate. We must honour the little ones who never made it home and the residential school survivors who are still with us today” said Ontario First Nations Young People’s Council.
Supports of the call to cancel Canada Day explain how not celebrating July 1 is solely an act of solidarity with Indigenous people by recognizing that the genocide of Indigenous people did occur. Standing in solidary with Canada’s Indigenous people is to honour and mourn the thousands of Indigenous children who were taken from their homes in an unjust manner. As Canadians, we should all try to understand the intergenerational trauma that continues to be experiences of today’s Indigenous communities.
Releasing a statement this morning, Prime Minister Trudeau stated, “As people across the country continue to honour the Indigenous children whose lives were taken far too soon, and as we reflect the tragedy of Residential Schools, I have asked that the flag on the Peace Tower remain at half-mast for Canada Day”.