The 215 children found at Kamloops Residential School
Over the weekend many began to process the news of the 215 children’s bodies found at the former residential school site in Kamloops by the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation. This is a story of dehumanization, where these and many more children died alone under frightening circumstances. We believe Indigenous voices who tell us that the true number of buried bodies at this location is higher, and that there are likely unrecovered children buried at other former residential school locations.
As our Board Director Denis Carignan says, this is also a story about loss: "the loss by families and communities, and a loss for all Canadians as more truths of our history are uncovered. We are all grieving because of what we have done as a country.”
We, as the umbrella organization for the charitable and nonprofit sector, reflect on the legacy of the Indian Residential Schools system, which was implemented through a partnership between the federal government and Canadian charitable institutions (the United, Anglican and Catholic Churches). This system lasted for over a century and, in addition to the suffering of thousands of students, had the effect of dismantling Indigenous societies, culture and families and neutralizing resistance to the colonial occupation of the land.
I’m devastated more by the surprise of settlers than I am about the confirmation of a truth long known in our Secwepemc communities for decades. Keep looking Canada - this is only the beginning. I don’t need apologies & rage & sadness. I need settlers to do more and be better. https://t.co/D0ts5ZA1rp
— Kris Archie (@WeyktKris) May 29, 2021
The dehumanization that underlies this and countless other stories continues today in many forms: the normalization of the reserve system, unresolved land claims, systemic and fatal anti-Indigenous discrimination in hospitals and in law enforcement systems. We must conclude that Canada has not reformed since the deaths of these children, and there is tremendous work to be done.
We encourage those who work in our sector to continue to reflect on and feel this news. As Cindy Blackstock said on CBC’s The Current this morning: “Integrity is when your words have meaning”. Moving forward, action is required.
Nonprofit and charitable sector organizations have a considerable role to play in changing the trajectory of our collective heritage. We have shared obligations in the Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action. Through each of respective organization's funding decisions, our advocacy to the federal government, our program design, and our relationships and internal practices, we bear responsibility.
Our choices as organizations are key, but we must also consider our work together as a sector. It is often said that nonprofits and charities fill key gaps left by the government and the private sector. It is important to be continually intentional as a sector about which gaps we are filling, and what structures and interests this work is serving.
We will continue to work with many in the sector who are asking the federal government for structural reforms to our regulatory environment that would support organizations in working more collaboratively with Indigenous communities. For example, changes to direction & control requirements, which currently enforce paternalistic funding relationships between charities and non-charities, are a necessary step to ensure the sector’s meaningful participation in reconciliation.
National Indian Residential School Crisis Line provides support for former students and those affected. Access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.