After days of pressure, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has ordered half-mast flags to be hoisted on all federal buildings, including the Parliament Peace Tower in Ottawa, after the remains of 215 Indigenous children remained. . Found in a residential school.
In a tweet Sunday afternoon, Trudeau said the measure is to “honor the 215 children who were brought to life at the former Kamloops residential school and all the indigenous children who never got home, the survivors and their families. “
Indigenous community leaders and many others had called on the government to lower flags across Canada after a First Nation in the province of British Columbia (BC) announced this week that the remains of 215 children had been found at the site. ‘Kamloops Indian Residential School. .
“To our knowledge, these missing children are undocumented deaths,” said Rosanne Casimir, head of the first nation of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc.
To honor the 215 children who died at the former Kamloops residential school and all the indigenous children who never got home, the survivors and their families, I asked that the flag of the Peace Tower and the flags of all federal buildings were made in half-mast.
– Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) May 30, 2021
The discovery has spurred “a collective pain and a trauma”For Indigenous communities across Canada, while fueling the demands for concrete government action to address the historic and ongoing abuses of rights against First Nations, Métis and Inuit.
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada concluded that the country committed a “cultural genocide” with its decades-long residential school system.
Between the 1870s and the 1990s, more than 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend church-run schools with the goal of forcibly assimilating Indigenous children into Canadian white society.
Children were separated from their families and were forbidden to speak indigenous languages, and many experienced physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, among other forms of abuse.
Founded in 1890 and run by the Catholic Church, Kamloops Indian Residential School eventually became the largest school in Canada’s residential school system, with 500 children at the maximum enrollment point in early 50s.
“There is so much grief and trauma over the horrific news of the 215 children’s bodies that are found,” said opposition MP Charlie Angus of the new Democratic Party. dit on Twitter on Sunday. “I am just happy that the Prime Minister has agreed to lower the flags. But that’s just the beginning. We need answers. We need accountability. “
More than 4,000 indigenous children are known to have died in residential schools, but efforts continue to try to find others who will never return home.
The discovery in Kamloops has raised long-standing questions about the legacy of colonialism in Canada and the intergenerational trauma related to residential schools that is still felt in Indigenous communities across the country.
Many observers have also criticized Trudeau’s commitment to launching a new relationship with indigenous peoples, noting that some survivors of residential schools are still struggling to get justice in the courts.
Trudeau’s predecessor, Stephen Harper, formally apologized for the residential school system in 2008. But while schools can be closed, Indigenous children continue to be taken from their families in disproportionate numbers throughout the country. Canada.
According to census data, more than 52% of children admitted in 2016 were indigenous, while indigenous children only accounted for 7.7% of the country’s total population.
Observers have also pointed to the fact that so far few of the “calls to action” of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission have been implemented. According to CBC News, only 10 of the 94 recommendations had been completed from April 12 this year.
The Yellowhead Institute, a First Nation-led research center, said in December 2020 that only eight had been implemented. “Ultimately, we find that Canada is failing the survivors of residential schools and their families,” he said.
The commission had urged the pope to “apologize to survivors, their families and communities for the role of the Roman Catholic Church in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children. in running residential schools ”.
Most residential schools were run by the Roman Catholic Church.
Trudeau also apologized papally, but Pope Francis said in March 2018 that he would not give any. “Viouslybviament, I am disappointed by the Catholic Church’s decision not to apologize for its role in residential schools,” the prime minister said dit In that moment.
Ahead of Trudeau’s announcement Sunday, several local leaders, including the mayors of Ottawa and Toronto, announced they would also lower flags to honor Indigenous children who died at the Kamloops residential school.
The city of Merritt, British Columbia, said Friday it would keep the flags down for 215 hours in memory of the 215 children. “We need to confront reality and recognize that atrocities related to residential schools have been committed in the communities we know and love,” Mayor Linda Brown said in a statement.