With profound sadness, the Executives, Commissioners, and Staff at the Society of Graduate Students (SOGS) at Western University offer condolences to the Indigenous families and communities impacted by the confirmation of an unmarked mass grave on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School. The children found were the future of the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc First Nation as well as other First Nations. The deaths of these children are a devastating loss for Indigenous families and communities across the lands currently referred to as British Columbia.
We acknowledge the remains of the two hundred and fifteen Indigenous children found on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School represent the devastating but desired outcome of Canadian policy. The Kamloops Indian Residential School was one of over 100 Indian Residential Schools in operation from the 1830’s until 1996. The Indian Residential School system was designed to aggressively erase Indigenous identities and cultures, as well as sever connections to family, community and the land. These historical acts of violence have irreparably disrupted Indigenous ways of being on these lands and continue to inequitably benefit colonial settlers to the ongoing detriment of Indigenous Peoples today.
We support calls by First Nations communities for the immediate funding of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada Calls to Action Numbers 71-76 regarding missing children and burial information. The offers of condolences and acknowledgement of the Kamloops Indian Residential School discovery by all levels of Canadian government must match action. The uncomfortable truth revealed on Thursday May 27th, 2021 is not an isolated incident. As articulated in the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Volume 4, Survivors confirm atrocities such as that at Kamloops Indian Residential School took place at many of the Indian Residential Schools. Locating and identifying the missing children requires immediate action that must be led by the First Nation communities affected.
We join Indigenous nations and communities in calling for the urgent implementation of the 94 Calls to Action put forth by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The historical and ongoing impacts and processes of colonization, including the Indian Residential School System, continue to discriminate, disadvantage and dispossess Indigenous Peoples. Reconciliation is a process that requires immediate and sustained action and investment by all levels of Canadian government as well as Canadian citizens. Canada’s response to the 2015 release of the TRC Calls to Action has been shamefully inadequate and fails to meaningfully address the legacy of Indian Residential Schools.
We join calls from across the lands for the Canadian government to end its legal battle with Indian Residential School survivors and their families. The $3.2 million spent on legal fees to withhold the truth from St. Anne’s residential school survivors and the Canadian public is one example where the federal government continues to actively diminish and impede reconciliation efforts. The Canadian federal government must immediately release all Indian Residential School documents (unredacted) so that truth and justice can be achieved in the process of reconciliation.
We recognize SOGS has a distinct role to play in advancing reconciliation through Indigenous-specific advocacy and education efforts. To advance reconciliation, we commit to immediately reviewing SOGS supports to ensure our supports appropriately match the needs of Indigenous graduate students at Western. We further commit to an internal and ongoing review to examine how SOGS operations and policies can better align with and advance reconciliation efforts at Western and in the surrounding communities.
As allies to Indigenous Peoples and key actors in reconciliation, we will continue to share relevant resources and opportunities for non-Indigenous graduate students to support responses to the Kamloops Indian Residential School tragedy and engage in ongoing reconciliation efforts.
Resources to learn more about Indigenous Peoples, our Shared Histories and Reconciliation:
- The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Calls to Action & reports
- Progress report on Canada’s implementation of the Calls to Action
- Indigenous Studies Program at Western
- Office of Indigenous Initiatives: Indigenous History Month Challenge
List of SOGS, Western and Community resources for Indigenous students:
- Indigenous Elders: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Art Therapist Tisha Summers and Elder Myrna Kicknosway: email@example.com
- SOGS Indigenous Commissioner: E. Victoria Bomberry, firstname.lastname@example.org
- ATLoHSA 24-hour Crisis Line: 1-800-605-7477
- National Indian Residential School Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419
- StudentCare Indigenous Bursary
In solidarity, SOGS Executives, Commissioners, and Staff
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