Kamloops Residential School – The Unfulfilled TRC Commitments

Content Warning: This blog post discusses the recent news about an unmarked burial site at the Kamloops Residential School

On Thursday May 27, 2021 the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc announced it had located a mass grave with the remains of 215 children on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

First and foremost – for those needing support:

KUU-US Crisis Line 
The KUU-US Crisis Line Society operates a 24-hour provincial aboriginal crisis line for adults/Elders and youth.
Adults/Elders: 250-723-4050
Child/Youth: 250-723-2040
Toll Free Line: 1-800-588-8717

Indian Residential School Survivors Society Crisis Line
24-hour crisis line for survivors and family of survivors.
Toll Free 1-866-925-4419

First Nations Health Authority Mental Health Benefits
FNHA partners with Indigenous Services Canada to offer a comprehensive mental health plan to First Nations in BC. The plan covers counselling services from a qualified mental health provider, including psychologists, clinical counsellors and social workers.

This announcement confirmed what thousands of Indigenous peoples have known or suspected for generations. And Canada’s inaction reveals just how much government must do toward meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. Indeed, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission explicitly called on governments and churches to take action on missing children and burial information in Calls to Action 71 through 76.

Today marks the 6th anniversary of the Calls to Action.  Despite claims that 80% of the calls to action are “in progress or complete” Canada’s responses to these calls to action are vague and non-committal at best. Very few have been fully implemented by Canada, or the provincial and territorial governments. For a comprehensive progress report on the Calls to Action, check out the Yellowhead Institute’s Call to Action Accountability Status Update or CBC’s Beyond 94.

And lest anyone frame this as “dark history” – Canada continues to take actions that further the devastating legacy of residential schools. For example, Canada continues to fight Indigenous kids in court seeking equal services. On June 14, 2021 Canada returns to the Federal Court to argue that Jordan’s Principle should be interpreted narrowly to exclude certain categories of Indigenous children. Jordan’s principle requires governments to prioritize getting Indigenous children the services they are entitled to and sort out which government is supposed to pay for it later.

The provincial and federal governments in Canada simply must do better to respond to the devastating toll residential schools have had on Indigenous peoples in Canada.

So what can non-Indigenous people do?

IndigiNews has compiled an excellent list of actions here.

Then – write to your member of parliament to demand immediate action and accountability for example by supporting the calls of Indigenous people for culturally appropriate and consent-based investigation of all residential school sites, for necessary supports for residential school survivors and families, and for Canada to stop fighting residential school survivors and Indigenous children in court:

  • Find your MP here
  • Copy Prime Minister Trudeau here
  • Copy Minister of Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett here
  • Copy Minister of Indigenous Services Canada Marc Miller here
  • Copy your MLA

Donate to Indigenous organizations and charities if you are able. Again – great list by IndigiNews here.

Show up – are there public ceremonies or vigils planned in your community? Wear orange and attend (in a COVID-safe manner).