One week ago, news broke that a mass grave was discovered on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. The grave contained the remains of 215 young people, some of them as young as 3 years old, and it prompted a new wave of shock and outrage, along with a call for our political leaders to take immediate steps to address systemic racism against Indigenous people. Are Guelph politicians hearing the call?
Of course much of the burden of acting on Truth and Reconciliation falls on the Federal government, and Guelph’s representative to the House of Commons says that he is profoundly sad about recent news, and is very much committed to seeking justice for Canada’s Indigenous people.
“I personally remain committed to educating myself and others by acknowledging our institutional past while memorializing and honouring those who never returned home,” Longfield said in a statement posted to his website. “We all have a shared responsibility to continue the work on reconciliation, addressing violence against Indigenous women, girls, 2SLGBTQQIA+ people. We know that saying sorry for the tragedies of the past is not enough for the children who died, for their families, or for survivors and communities.”
“As a parliamentarian, I know I need to own the responsibility of generations of parliamentarians that have contributed to systemic racism, and look for my own ways of taking action now,” Longfield added. “As a person of faith, this has also prompted further personal reflection as I reconcile this with the role of the Catholic Church in this tragedy. And as a Guelph resident, recent events have caused me to reflect and renew my commitment to right the wrongs of the past here in our own community.”
Meanwhile, at the Ontario Legislature, Guelph MPP and Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner said that while marking National Indigenous History Month this month, we need to “face the reality of Canada’s colonial past and present.”
“The mass grave uncovered last week is a reminder of the brutal horrors and violence perpetrated by settlers on Indigenous children at residential schools. But it’s also a reminder of the discrimination and racism Indigenous peoples continue to face today,” Schreiner said in his own statement. “The racism that results in a violation of the most basic human rights, like access to clean water, and the racism Indigenous peoples face in our medical, policing and education systems.”
Schreiner is calling on the Provincial government to provide funding and resources to search for mass graves at Ontario residential school sites, to create a formal day of remembrance and mourning for residential school survivors and victims, and to re-institute curriculum changes the government cancelled in 2018 on expanded Indigenous learning.
“This month, I also want to express my deepest gratitude to the Indigenous peoples who have cared for the land, the water and the plants and animals who live here,” Schreiner added. “It is vital that we look to Indigenous teachings on important lessons like stewardship, sustainability and community.”
For anyone struggling with mental health issues or depression regarding the recent news from Kamloops, you’re encouraged to call the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line any time, 24 hours a day/7 days a week, at 1-866-925-4419.
“We must continue working together to truly reconcile Canada’s relationship with our Indigenous people and ensure that everyone can feel safe, valued, and have an equal opportunity to succeed,” Longfield said.
“During Indigenous History Month, let’s honour and give thanks to Indigenous peoples for their invaluable teachings and the traditions, but let’s also commit to addressing the issues of the past and present so that we can work towards a future of Reconciliation where Indigenous peoples have the basic rights they deserve,” Schreiner added.