Note: This letter contains frank discussions of Indigenous Residential Schools in Canada. I encourage you to read and listen to Indigenous people about their stories, not to just read what settlers have to say about it.
The bodies of 215 children were discovered buried under a school and the news came to light over the weekend. And now, today, I’m supposed to just be back at work like nothing has happened? With the knowledge that if the body of even one single white child was found in an unmarked grave, the whole country would be mobilizing to figure out how such an atrocity could have happened. But instead, we’re asked to wear an orange shirt or change our Facebook profile picture or lower our flags, and continue to go about our lives.
Our lives take place on land stolen from indigenous people, in a society enabled by the fact that our government (our government elected by and representing us as citizens) removed children from their homes and placed them in institutions that they called schools. My life in this place is made possible because we allowed children to be forcibly removed from their homes, institutionalized, traumatized, and killed.
If that makes you feel uncomfortable to read, well that’s because it’s an uncomfortable and awful truth about our country. We can’t truly love being Canadians until we can reckon with the ugly, awful parts of being Canadian, too.
These institutions that we call schools were run by people that felt it is better for children to be dead than to be indigenous. This is the only conclusion I can come to from this information. These children died and instead of informing their families, turning themselves in to the authorities, burying them properly, or changing their policies to prevent further deaths, the people at these schools buried the children in unmarked mass graves and continued on. And no white people noticed or cared that these children went missing.
And now the existence of one of these graves has now been proven through science, although if we’d listened to and believed survivors of this institution, we’d have already known about this. The fact that hundreds of children died while in the care of the government isn’t surprising or new information for many, many people.
I’m asking you to recommit to (and actually follow through on this commitment) implementing all of the recommendations made in the Truth and Reconciliation report. It’s a long list of calls-to-action, so can I suggest that we start with the ones involving missing children and burial information. Public awareness of this issue is high, and I desperately hope that you’re getting many, many of your constituents asking for the same.
Lowering flags or saying that you support the TRC just isn’t enough. It’s never been enough, and I’m only sorry that I’m just coming to this realization now.
As my elected representative in our federal government, I’m asking you to admit to uncomfortable truths and take action that might not be popular. But it’s our responsibility to listen to what indigenous people are asking for and to truly commit to reconciliation (in actions not just words). As settlers to this land, as a country that has done terrible things to the people who lived here before us, this is really the bare minimum that we should do to make amends.
Thank you for your time.