Statement on the Discovery of Unmarked Graves in Cowessess, SK

June 24, 2021

We share the grief of First Nations who have discovered the unmarked graves of hundreds of children at Marieval (Cowessess) Residential School in Saskatchewan. We mourn with them and call for the Governments of Canada and Manitoba to fully support the calls of First Nations in finding, identifying, and providing a dignified burial.

All Canadians should know these will not be the last bodies that are found. There may be thousands more.

The Government of Canada knew 100 years ago that schools were dangerous, inadequate, understaffed, had poor nutrition and had catastrophic death rates for children, especially from infectious diseases like TB and the Spanish Flu.

Deaths were common, but instead of putting money into prevention, governments built graveyards.

These are issues that are treated as being "in the past" because we are talking about those who are no longer with us.

All Canadians should also know that if we can identify the name of every last child and return them home so their souls can rest in peace, that is still only the beginning.

That is because residential schools and their horrors represent only the beginning of oppressive measures to destroy the spirit, lives and cultures of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

Discrimination against First Nations was baked into the law and policies of the land, and governments have never stopped taking children.

Governments across Canada have never stopped tearing apart First Nations families, especially in Manitoba, where apprehension rates in the 2000s were higher than any other government in the world.

We have to more than recognize evils of the past, and make amends for them. We need to recognize the evils of the present in order to reconcile and build a better future together.

 


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