Grief Must Prompt Action for Residential School Victims

CPJ staff join in mourning for the 215 children found in a mass grave at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. We grieve for their families, their communities, their nations. We grieve for the deliberate dehumanization, indoctrination, and genocide justified by Church teachings such as the Doctrine of Discovery. We grieve for the ongoing violence of colonialism still today, even as flags fly at half mast across Canada.

But our grief is not enough.

Just two weeks ago, at our Seeking Justice Together virtual conference, we heard from speakers like Romeo Saganash, Melina Laboucan-Massimo, Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm, and Jodi Spargur about the need for justice, reparations, and healing for the ongoing violence and trauma being perpetuated against First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, as well as the lands, waters, air, and all created things with whom we share our homes. We heard of the need to listen and sit with hard truth; to see all people and all of creation as connected to one another; to restore balance.

We must resist the temptation to compartmentalize the nauseating grief of 215 children’s bodies in a mass grave by thinking of it as an atrocity of the past. We must acknowledge that this discovery should not actually shock us, given what has already been shared by residential school survivors and their families, as well as by First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people today experiencing disproportionate levels of child apprehension, violence, incarceration, and underfunding. We must resist the temptation to express condolences without reparations. 

Below, we have shared a few suggestions for ways CPJ and our members can support ongoing calls for justice and reconciliation. But we must not be too quick to move past our grief and outrage. Each of us must sit with the hard truth of what has happened, and what is happening today on these lands claimed as “Canada.” We must reckon with how this has been allowed to happen, how it has been embedded in our laws, our policies, our perceptions, our unconscious reflexive responses. And then we must rip it out, before we can begin to heal, both individually and collectively.

May it be so. 

Suggested actions:

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