In May 2021, the remains of 215 Indigenous children were found buried at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Articles, marches, and protests erupted across Canada as people all over the country expressed their fury over the harm done to these children and their premature deaths.
The Canadian government and the Christian Church established the residential schooling system as part of a process to convert and assimilate Indigenous children into Canadian culture. As Sir John A. Macdonald said, the goal of the residential school was to “take the Indian out of the child.” These schools worked to achieve this by forcibly removing children from their families, forcing them to cut their hair short (in accordance with Canadian fashion and against centuries of sanctified tradition), and requiring them to communicate only in the English language. The children at these schools were not allowed to speak their native tongue amongst themselves or practice their own cultural traditions without risk of severe punishment. Although we tend to view residential schools as a tragedy from the distant past, the last establishment closed merely 25 years ago, in 1996.
Within this past month, media coverage of the 215 Kamloops victims has dwindled to a few articles, and the outcry has faded to a low boil. However, the bodies of more and more children have been found on residential school grounds since May.
The media is not the only group who has not given this issue proper representation. Our prime minister Justin Trudeau has also failed to speak out regarding the increasing number of bodies. Trudeau promised in May that he would take “concrete action” to address this. However, all we are receiving is silence.
It has come to light that Trudeau is filing for judicial review on the government’s decision to provide compensation to indigenous children who have been mistreated in the Canadian welfare system. With all the harm that has already been done, Prime Minister Trudeau’s actions speak much louder than his words. If the leader and face of Canada is choosing to remain silent, it is no surprise that the media will follow.
We will undoubtedly continue to find more dead children on residential grounds, even as the Indigenous community suffers from the Canadian government’s silence. To hold the system responsible for the deaths of these children accountable, to honor the lives they lost and speak out about their treatment, the Indigenous community needs support.
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