215 children reached out from an unmarked grave in Kamloops and touched our hearts. Canadians who saw the residential school’s issue as simply part of our historical past were suddenly faced with the reality of young children ripped from their homes, subjected to a strange and punitive environment, and finally buried without family or ceremony.
There will be concerns expressed, discussions of fault and multiple proposals of how to honour these lost children. These are important discussions, and we should certainly express our sadness and our solidarity with the communities and families who have suffered the pain and loss of their children. In the end we cannot change history, nor can we bring these children back to life.
We can however change the way we treat indigenous children today. In 2007, Cindy Blackstock filed a Human Rights Complaint against the Canadian Government for failure to provide adequate care for indigenous children. In 2016, after a 9-year battle, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found that the federal government did discriminate against First Nations children on the basis of race. Despite that decision there has not been movement to implement the change necessary to treat these children fairly.
In Canada we take pride in the care we provide for children. We were one of the earliest countries to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child with its promise to take into account the best interests of the child in all our decisions.
What better way to honour the 215 children and the many others who suffered the same fate than to ensure that indigenous children today grow up within their culture and with access to clean water, adequate housing, and proper health care.
We can spend time deciding who is responsible to create change or we can let these 215 little lives inspire each of us to take some action, however small, to create a better life for indigenous children. It is our choice.
For more information contact:
Agnes Samler, firstname.lastname@example.org, 416-266-5914
Bill Sparks, email@example.com, 416-785-8068