75. We call upon the federal government to work with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, churches, Aboriginal communities, former residential school students, and current landowners to develop and implement strategies and procedures for the ongoing identification, documentation, maintenance, commemoration, and protection of residential school cemeteries or other sites at which residential school children were buried. This is to include the provision of appropriate memorial ceremonies and commemorative markers to honour the deceased children.
Residential schools had a horrendous impact on Aboriginal children as they were forced to be separated from their families in a brutal attempt to make them adapt to Euro-Christian Canadian society. The TRC states, “Child neglect was institutionalized, and the lack of supervision created situations where students were prey to sexual and physical abusers”. The severe abuse that happened at residential schools caused the number of deaths to stop being recorded by the government as children were dying at an alarming rate. The impacts of residential schools can still be found across Canada today, as Indigenous communities search for closure, which can only be done by facing the wounds that were implemented by the racial profiling that so drastically occurred.
Justice Murray Sinclair, who heads the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, estimated that up to six thousand children died at residential schools, yet it is impossible to say with certain. The Star stated in an article titled, How many First Nations kids died in residential schools? Justice Murray Sinclair says Canada needs answers, “Schools were often crowded, poorly ventilated and unsanitary. Children died from smallpox, measles, influenza and tuberculosis. Some were buried in unmarked graves in school cemeteries, while others were listed as “missing” or “discharged.” In some cases, parents never found out what happened”. It can be understood that in order for reconciliation to take place, Canada must come together as a nation to pay respect to these innocent lives that were lost due to this dark part of history. It is vitally important that these children are remembered and honored by having appropriate memorial ceremonies and ensuring that their graves are marked and maintained.
TRC: Survivors weep for those who died, Shari Narine Windspeaker
Committee Seeking Recognition of Regina Residential School Cemetery, Alyssa McDonald
Compiled by: Nicole Elie