Collingwood Neighbourhood House (CNH) wishes to express its deep sorrow at the horrifying discovery of a mass grave of 215 Indigenous children on the territory of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation. This news is unthinkable, but it is not surprising. For decades, Indigenous communities have shared stories of the hideous abuse and neglect that was inflicted on Indigenous children at Canada’s residential schools. Years ago, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission made six Calls to Action regarding the identification of unmarked graves in areas around former residential schools and repatriation of the remains of Indigenous children buried in these graves. These Calls to Action have been ignored. The time for non-Indigenous Canadians to acknowledge the genocide of Indigenous peoples is overdue, and it is indeed worse than we as settlers could have imagined.
CNH calls on the non-Indigenous members of our community to leverage the feelings of grief and shame that we have experienced upon learning this news into meaningful action to support Indigenous peoples across Canada. We encourage non-Indigenous members of our community to learn about the people on whose land they live, and to learn about the intergenerational trauma that colonization continuously inflicts upon Indigenous peoples. We encourage non-Indigenous members of our community to take concrete steps toward decolonization in their own lives, and to push their friends and family to do the same.
We encourage the non-Indigenous members of our community to donate to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS). The last residential school closed in 1996, long after CNH opened. Residential school survivors are all around us, fighting a lifelong and intergenerational battle with the scars they carry from their experiences. Every member of the CNH Board who is able has made or will make a financial donation to IRSSS.
Lastly, CNH calls upon all levels of government to fully implement the 94 Calls to Action made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. In particular, Calls to Action 71 through 76 address the woeful efforts that have been made to locate, repatriate and honour the remains of thousands of Indigenous children who died at residential schools. It would be naïve to believe that the mass grave of Indigenous children located on the territory of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation is the only mass grave of Indigenous children at the location of a former residential school in this country. Every child who lost his or her life at a residential school deserves to be returned home with respect and dignity. We encourage the non-Indigenous members of our community to write to their elected representatives and demand the immediate implementation of the 94 Calls to Action, including Calls to Action 71 through 76.
The IRSSS Emergency Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419) is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide counselling and support for residential school survivors. The KUU-US Crisis Line Society (1-800-588-8717) provides an Indigenous-specific crisis line that is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.