BC FORUM News - from COSCOBC
July, 2021 (posted August, 2021)
COCSCOBC demands action in letter sent to PM
June 14, 2020
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Re: The Terrible Legacy of Indian Residential Schools
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau:
The Executive, affiliates, and members of the Council of Senior Citizens Organizations of B.C. representing some 80,000 seniors across B.C. are deeply shocked and saddened by the discovery of 215 unmarked burials of Indigenous children in the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. We acknowledge the heartbreak that Indigenous families are suffering and stand in solidarity with the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation.
We are now also aware that unmarked grave sites of Indigenous children may exist on the grounds of 132 former Indian Residential schools across Canada, the last of which only closed in the mid 1990s. The families of these children were not informed of these children’s deaths according to families and survivors testifying at Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee (2008-2015).
The unmarked children’s graves are one consequence of the Indian Residential Schools policy of the Canadian government that dictated for some 80 years that all Indigenous children should be taken away, by force if necessary, from their families and communities and placed in government-funded church-run Christian residential schools for many years to “take the Indian out of the Indian.” The consequences of that policy were “extremely negative and caused severe harm” to generations of Indigenous peoples across Canada as the former Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, acknowledged in his June 11, 2008 Apology to “Aboriginal peoples for Canada’s role in the Residential School system.”
Unfortunately, the Canadian government has been very slow to live up to its rhetoric and has continued since 2008 to underfund and also fight in court against the findings of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that government funding for the care and education of every Indigenous child should be equal to that available to every other child in Canada. However the tide may be turning. On June 7, 2021 a motion from New Democrat MP Jagmeet Singh calling on Ottawa to drop legal battles against First Nations children received unanimous support from all parties in the House of Commons. Some Liberal MPs abstained and Prime Minister Trudeau did not vote.
Across Canada today Indigenous children continue to be separated from their families and communities and placed in foster homes in large numbers. In Manitoba, 90 percent of the children “in care” were Indigenous in October 2020.
In my own province of B.C. of the 6,263 children “in care” 4,111 or about 65 per cent were Indigenous when they are at most 10 per cent of the total population of children under 19 years in BC. In 2017, Bernard Richard, then B.C. Advocate for Children and Youth reported, “chronic underfunding [of First Nations child welfare agencies with some delegated authority from the Ministry of Children and Families] and understaffing may cause children to be separated from their families.“
We urge our federal and provincial governments to take every step necessary to completely stop the practice of separating Indigenous children from their families and communities and fully support financially and in every way necessary the inviolable human and Indigenous right of Indigenous families and communities across Canada to care for their own children. For greater assurance that this transformative change will happen, we further urge our federal government to pass the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) without further delay.
President, Council of Senior Citizens Organizations of BC
CCs: Premier John Horgan email@example.com
Chef Alex Thomas Way Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation. firstname.lastname@example.org
Grand Chief Stewart Philip, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs
Terry Teegee, B.C. Regional Chief, Assembly of First Nations