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Wednesday, June 30, 2021
For those presently in need of support during these trying times, the IBA urges you to contact the Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419, or the Indigenous Residential School Survivors’ Society at 1-800-721-0066.
Ottawa, ONT – Following the recent announcement of several-hundred unmarked gravesites located within Cowessess First Nations territory, and near the former site of Marieval Indian Residential School in what is now known as Saskatchewan, the Indigenous Bar Association in Canada (“the IBA”) continues to grieve for the countless Indigenous children stolen and victimized by Canada’s residential “school” systems.
In solidarity with Cowessess First Nation, Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc, the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation and all Indigenous Peoples who continue to endure the painful re-discovery of stolen Indigenous children, the IBA mourns our lost relatives, condemns the injustices inflicted upon them, and voices our recurring outrage.
Not six years ago, the Truth and Reconciliation Committee of Canada had estimated that more than 4,100 Indigenous children have perished due to “disease or accident while attending a residential school.” Tragically, more recent investigations have revealed over one-thousand unmarked gravesites near to, or on the grounds of less-than five-percent of Canada’s former residential schools. Given these horrifying numbers it appears a tragic certainty that previous estimates of Indigenous youth lost to these so called “schools” will be greatly exceeded in the coming months and years.
For Indigenous Peoples, this process of (re)uncovery is replete with many painful reminders of how First Nation, Inuit, and Métis Peoples have been—and continue to be—injured and marginalized by colonialism. Indeed, as the First Nations Caring Society of Canada has recognized, there are more Indigenous children in Canada’s child welfare system today than were in residential “schools” during their height. These issues and the real and lasting consequences to Indigenous children, families, communities and Nations is far from a piece of history.
The IBA remains steadfast in our support of Indigenous communities, traditions, and the revival of Indigenous laws as a critical component of healing and de-colonization. These collective experiences must inform our visions of a better future and the continuing contributions of Indigenous People to Canadian law. For those looking to take action and pick up the calls for justice, the IBA has compiled a list of further resources below.
At the same time, the IBA recognizes that within any movement for justice for Indigenous Peoples, commensurate space should be created to mourn and honour the memory of our stolen relatives. Indigenous Peoples have long honoured their lost ancestors and advocated for increased recognition of those relatives stolen by Canadian residential “schools” or lost to the genocidal and other colonial actions aimed at erasing Indigenous Peoples. Now, more than ever, Indigenous voices must be listened to, amplified, and validated throughout the land we now know as Canada. Where space for grief, healing, and ceremony is requested by communities, this space must be respected.
The Indigenous Bar Association in Canada wishes you strength and lasting courage during this difficult time.
If you are looking for ways to contribute, learn more, or offer supports, please visit:
The IBA is comprised of Indigenous lawyers (practicing and non-practicing), legal academics and scholars, articling clerks, and law students, including graduate and post-graduate law students. We are mandated to promote the advancement of legal and social justice for Indigenous peoples in Canada and the reform of laws and policies affecting Indigenous peoples. We continue our commitment to collective healing and implementing the TRC’s Calls to Action. For more information, please visit www.indigenousbar.ca.
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