The Council of Canadians
Like you, we have been waking up to more news confirming the horrors of the Indian Residential School system.
We at the Council have been asked by our allies and supporters to consider how we approach July 1st, a day set aside to celebrate our country and its accomplishments.
Over the past month, the remains of more than 1,300 Indigenous children have been found in unmarked graves surrounding institutions they were forced into by churches and governments.
For some Canadians, this is the first time they’ve been confronted with what Indigenous communities have always known: these buildings were not schools at all. They were prisons for children who had been stolen from their homes. The people who ran these facilities perpetuated and enabled horrific abuses of all kinds against these children. Many of the children did not survive that abuse, and their families never saw them again. It’s estimated that the death toll is in the thousands and that the unmarked graves that have been found so far are just the tip of the iceberg.
As that knowledge sits heavy in our hearts, we are asking ourselves what we can do. What actions can we take to address the deep injustices of the past and present?
This year, July 1st must mark the transition from what our country has been and is, to what our society must become. We are asking you to join with us and take the day as an opportunity to listen, learn, and reflect.
What happened to these children is not ancient history. The last of these schools closed in 1996. The federal government, meanwhile, is still busy in court fighting against compensating Indigenous children who were ripped away from their homes by a chronically underfunded child welfare system. Nearly 15,000 children in foster care are Indigenous, which makes up more than 50 per cent of kids in the system.
Canada has committed genocide against Indigenous peoples, and our governments have gone out of their way to hide this truth from the public. But that campaign of deceit is finally failing.
While the country is sharing a moment of collective grief, it is also sharing in the need to come to a greater understanding of our country and our government — and a greater commitment to creating a society that works for all of us.
Meanwhile, we are witnessing what many had said was impossible: colonial statues and monuments are being taken down; over 60 municipalities are cancelling or postponing local Canada Day events; and sports teams — like the Edmonton Elks — are changing their names away from racist slurs.
This is all pointing to a new recognition of the realities of Canada’s colonial history and present.
This is a time to mourn — it’s also a time to organize. This year, we are calling on all Council of Canadians supporters to observe July 1st differently. Here are some options for learning more and taking tangible actions:
- Support survivors and frontline Indigenous organizing by donating to Idle No More here and the Indian Residential School Survivors Society here.
- Learn about the other experiences in Canada that you may not have had the opportunity to know by attending a local Indigenous-led event on July 1. Click here to find an action near you.
- Over 60 cities and towns in 10 provinces and territories are opting to mourn instead of celebrate on July 1. You can encourage your municipality to do the same by clicking here.
- Read and understand the 94 Calls to Action developed from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. You can read about the federal government’s inaction on the Calls to Action here.
- Wear orange, as led by Indigenous movements across the country, and light a candle for the thousands of children who never made it home.
- Sign up for a free online Indigenous Canada course. Indigenous Canada is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) from the Faculty of Native Studies that explores Indigenous histories and contemporary issues in Canada.
- “It Could Have Been Us”: Read these reflections from Eriel Deranger, from Indigenous Climate Action, on the finding of hundreds of unmarked graves of Indigenous children.
- “Stealing Children to Steal the Land”: Listen to Naomi Klein speak to the legendary Manuel family about the uncovering of a mass grave of 215 Indigenous children.
- The Indian Residential Schools 24 Hour Crisis Line is available 24-hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their Residential school experience: 1-866-925-4419. Indian Residential School Survivors Society Counselling Services are also available.
- Learn more about whose Indigenous territory you live on here.
With hope and resolve,
The Council of Canadians