215. This is a number every single person in what we call Canada must reckon with. This is what Canada was built on – on the foundation of the separation of Indigenous children from their families, of their abuse, of their deaths due to neglect and violence.

215 Indigenous children’s remains found in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, or Kamloops, British Columbia. There could be even more. There are certainly more we could uncover at the sites of the over 140 residential schools scattered over the country.

In this moment of collective mourning that we’re participating in, CUPE Ontario echoes the voices of Indigenous peoples and of allies who have long put a mirror up to Canada.

The horrors reflected demand a thorough examination of every single residential school, an effort that must be coupled by an internal examination of our place within ongoing colonialism.

They demand a Federal government that refuses to remain in court to block compensation payments to Indigenous people who were separated from their families as children, even after they were ordered to do so by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

They demand immediate action from the Federal, Provincial, and local governments, calling on them to adopt and comply with all the Calls to Action contained in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2015) – and recommended by the Commission’s Working Group on Missing Children and Unmarked Burials.

Specifically, we demand that all levels of government commit to the terms of the “Missing Children Research Project”, which calls for:

  • An examination of the number and cause of deaths, illnesses, disappearances of children;
  • The location of burial sites;
  • A review of all relevant church and government records, as well as information provided by survivors, staff, or anyone else.

The horrors of residential schools demand that families and communities affected by them get recognition, accountability, and compensation from the government.

They rightly demand so much of all of us, CUPE Ontario included, and we must be prepared when we’re called to act.

What we learned is just one more reminder that there can be no reconciliation or justice until we remake all our institutions free of all remnants of colonialism. Today and onward, in honour of the 215 children who represent so many more, we reaffirm our commitment to this work.

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