Canada’s Trudeau Orders Lower Flags for Indigenous Children | Human rights news


After days of pressure, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ordered flags to fly at half mast over all federal buildings, including the Peace Tower in Parliament in Ottawa, after the remains of 215 Indigenous children were found in a boarding school.

In a tweet Sunday afternoon, Trudeau said the move was “to honor the 215 children whose lives were taken away in the old Kamloops residential school and all the Indigenous children who never made it home, the survivors and their families ”.

Leaders of Indigenous communities and many others had called on the government to lower the flags across Canada after a First Nation in the province of British Columbia (B.C.) this week announced that the remains of 215 children were found at the Kamloops Indian Residential School site. .

“To our knowledge, these missing children are undocumented dead,” said Rosanne Casimir, Chief of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation.

The discovery sparked “collective pain and trauma” for Indigenous communities across Canada, while also fueling calls for concrete government action to address historic and ongoing rights violations against First Nations, Métis and the Inuits.

In 2015, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded that the country had committed “cultural genocide” with its residential school system for decades.

Between the 1870s and 1990s, more than 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend schools, which were run by churches and aimed to forcibly assimilate Indigenous children into white Canadian society.

Children were separated from their families and prevented from speaking indigenous languages, and many suffered physical, psychological and sexual abuse, among other forms of abuse.

Founded in 1890 and operated by the Catholic Church, Kamloops Indian Residential School eventually became the largest school in Canada’s residential school system, with 500 children at its peak in the early 1950s.

“There is so much heartache and trauma over the terrible news of the discovery of the bodies of 215 children,” said Charlie Angus, opposition member of Parliament for the New Democratic Party. mentionned on Twitter Sunday. “I am happy that the Prime Minister has agreed to lower the flags. But this is only the beginning. We need answers. We need accountability. “

More than 4,000 Aboriginal children are known to have died in residential schools, but efforts continue to find others who have never returned home.

The Kamloops discovery raised long-standing questions about the continuing legacy of colonialism in Canada – and the intergenerational trauma associated with residential schools that still lurks in Indigenous communities across the country.

Many observers have also criticized Trudeau’s promise to launch a renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples, pointing to the fact that some residential school survivors are still fighting for justice in the courts.

Trudeau’s predecessor, Stephen Harper, formally apologized for the residential school system in 2008. But even though schools may be closed, Indigenous children continue to be taken from their families in disproportionate numbers across Canada.

According to census data, over 52% of children placed in foster care in 2016 were indigenous, while indigenous children made up only 7.7% of the country’s total population.

Observers also highlighted the fact that very few of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s “calls to action” have been implemented to date. According to CBC News, only 10 of the 94 recommendations had been completed to April 12 of this year.

The Yellowhead Institute, a First Nations-run research center, said in December 2020 that only eight had been implemented. “At the end of the day, we find that Canada is failing residential school survivors and their families,” he said.

Founded in 1890 and operated by the Catholic Church, Kamloops Indian Residential School eventually became the largest school in Canada’s residential school system. [File: Library and Archives Canada/Handout via Reuters]

The commission 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. of the Catholic Church. run Indian residential schools ”.

The majority of residential schools were run by the Roman Catholic Church.

Trudeau also called for a papal apology, but Pope Francis said in March 2018 that he would not publish one. “Obviously, I am disappointed with the Catholic Church’s decision not to apologize for its role in residential schools,” Prime Minister mentionned at this moment.

Ahead of Trudeau’s announcement on Sunday, several local leaders – including the mayors of Ottawa and Toronto – announced that they would also lower the flags to honor Indigenous children who died at Kamloops residential school.

The city of Merritt, British Columbia, said Friday it will keep its flags down for 215 hours in memory of the 215 children. “We need to face the reality and recognize that residential school atrocities were committed in the communities we know and love,” Mayor Linda Brown said in a statement.

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