We are once again saddened and appalled by the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves in the vicinity of a residential school. The pain and shock of the crime revealed at the Kamloops Indian Residential School has not even begun to fade, and we are faced with the staggering discovery of at least 751 unmarked graves at a cemetery near the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan. Many of the graves may contain adults or even local community members, but it is also likely that a great number hold our Indigenous children, sent to anonymous places of rest by an indifferent system.
When the Kamloops Indian Residential School crime was exposed, Chief Greg Nadjiwon immediately wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Crown Indigenous Relations Bennett, and Minister of Indigenous Services Miller, demanding immediate concrete action. The Chief spoke for all of us when he called for all Indigenous children anonymously buried at residential schools to be found and returned home, and for all deaths of Indigenous children at residential schools to be fully and transparently investigated. Read the Chief’s full letter.
We have received responses from the federal government that the Chief would like to share with the community.
We received a perfunctory letter from Lana Thomas, the Corporate Secretary of Minister Miller, which you can read here. Indigenous Services Canada declined to comment except to suggest that the matter was Minister’s Bennett’s responsibility.
Martin Reiher, Assistant Deputy Minister, Resolution & Partnerships, with the Ministry of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, sent the following response for Minister Bennett:
From: “Reiher, Martin (AADNC/AANDC)” <firstname.lastname@example.org>Subject: Calls to Action 74-76Date: June 18, 2021 at 7:14:36 AM EDTCc: “email@example.com” <firstname.lastname@example.org>, “Baak2, Jayne (AADNC/AANDC)” <email@example.com>, “Turcotte, Karen (AADNC/AANDC)” <firstname.lastname@example.org>Chief Nadjiwon,I am outreaching to you on behalf of Minister Bennett as an initial response to your letter to the Prime Minister, Minister Miller and Minister Bennett demanding action on Calls to Action 74 to 76. Minister Bennett wanted that I outreach to you as soon as possible.The sad news of the remains being found in the area of Kamloops on May 27, 2021 has cast light on the dark legacy of Indian Residential Schools. We very much appreciate you taking the time to write and express your views. We know that Survivors, their families and communities are seeking action be taken by the Government while at the same time respecting the pace at which communities wish to move forward.On June 2, 2021, Minister Bennett announced that funding is available for our Indigenous partners to support locating, commemorating and memorializing those children who never returned home from residential schools. Information on the available funding may be found through the links below. We would be happy to meet to provide information to you regarding this funding and engage in a dialogue to determine how we can support your community in this important but difficult undertaking.We know that many communities are in mourning and we respect that you may not wish to meet with us at this time. If at any time in the future you do wish to have a call, please let me know and I will ask my office to work with yours to arrange a call at a date and time that is convenient for you.Regards,Martin ReiherSous-ministre adjoint, Résolution & Partenariats / Assistant Deputy Minister, Resolution & PartnershipsRelations Couronne-Autochtones et Affaires du Nord / Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern AffairsResidential schools missing children – community support funding
Jean-Luc Marion, Senior Manager – Prime Minister’s Correspondence, sent the following email from the Prime Minister’s office:
From: Prime Minister | Premier Ministre <PM@pm.gc.ca>Subject: Office of the Prime Minister / Cabinet du Premier ministreDate: June 14, 2021 at 11:13:42 AM EDTTo: Terry King <email@example.com>Dear Chief Nadjiwon:
On behalf of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, I would like to acknowledge receipt of your correspondence regarding the discovery of the remains of 215 children found buried at a former British Columbia residential school.
Our government is profoundly saddened by this tragic news and our thoughts are with Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, as well as with all Indigenous communities across Canada. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) brought to light the truth about Canadian history and what took place at residential schools. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation was established and is now responsible for the Student Death Registries. Since Budget 2019, we have been engaging with Indigenous communities impacted by residential schools on how best to proceed with implementing Calls to Action 72 to 76.
The loss of children who attended Indian Residential Schools is unthinkable and Canada remains resolved to supporting families, Survivors and communities and to memorializing those lost innocent souls. Our government is committed to continuing our engagement with communities on the development of culturally appropriate approaches to identifying the deceased children, locating burial sites and commemorating or memorializing those who died or went missing while attending residential schools. We have heard and are ensuring that the approaches taken moving forward are Indigenous-led, community-based, Survivor-centric and culturally sensitive.
Thank you once again for sharing your concerns and for writing to the Prime Minister.
Please accept my warmest regards.
Senior Manager – Prime Minister’s Correspondence
A copy of the Chief’s letter was also forwarded to Grey-Bruce-Owen Sound Member of Parliament Alex Ruff. MP Ruff, offered a lengthy response, including the position that the Conservative Party has taken in the House of Commons. You can read MP Ruff’s response here.