Canada’s unions stand with Indigenous communities across Canada as they mourn the lives of 215 children whose remains were discovered at a burial site at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.
“Our hearts are with residential school survivors, their families and all the children who never returned to the homes from which they were taken,” said Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). “This devastating discovery is yet another disturbing chapter in Canada’s long and ongoing history of colonial violence against Indigenous communities and the deeply traumatic legacy of residential schools.
“While the Canadian government has formally apologized, as have many faith institutions involved in the residential school system, survivors have not yet seen a formal apology from the Catholic Church. This must happen, and those responsible must be held accountable,” continued Yussuff.
While Canada’s unions welcome the federal government’s recent passing of Bill C-5, which would establish September 30 as a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation per Call to Action 80 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), we now call on the Senate to pass this legislation without delay. Currently recognized as Orange Shirt Day, this day is one to recognize the history of residential schools, and honour the experiences and healing journey of survivors and their families, toward reconciliation.
“Without a doubt, Canada needs a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, but this is only one step on the path to justice for Indigenous communities,” said Larry Rousseau, Executive Vice-President of the CLC. “As this recent horrific news has shown us, there remains much work to be done when it comes to addressing the enduring and destructive impacts and outcomes of colonialism, violence and systemic racism experienced by Indigenous community members to this day. Reconciliation means pursuing justice for Indigenous communities on all fronts.”
The TRC report documented the tragic history and reverberations of Canada’s residential school system, in which more than 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children were subjected to widespread systemic abuse, racism and mistreatment.
Canada’s unions are once again urging the federal government to swiftly implement all of the calls to action laid out in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report. Indigenous communities need urgent, concrete and meaningful action when it comes to justice, beginning with implementation of the TRC calls to action 71 through 76 on the Missing Children and Burial Information.
“The TRC report and National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) clearly laid out a path to action on reconciliation, and it is well past time for the federal government to act on every single one of their recommendations. There can be no justice or reconciliation until this is done,” Yussuff noted.
The CLC is also calling on the federal government to comply with the ruling of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordering an end to discrimination against First Nations children in the delivery of child welfare services on reserves. The government failed to reform its First Nations Child and Family Services (FNCFS) program — which funds prevention and protection services — and by not doing so, failed First Nations children and families.
Lastly, Canada’s unions are urging the government to commit to stop fighting Indigenous families in court who are seeking access to services covered by the federal government. Since 2013, the Canadian government has spent $3.2 million battling a group of Ontario residential school survivors in court. “The government should be supporting residential school survivors and their families who have suffered tremendously as result of this system, not fighting them in court,” said Rousseau.
As we embark on Indigenous History Month, Canada’s unions reaffirm their commitment to reconciliation, to fighting for truth and justice for Indigenous communities, and continue to stand in solidarity with Indigenous workers and communities across the country.
Emergency Residential School Crisis Line, available 24/7 for those who may need support after the recent news: