(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde released the below statement to mark the first day of Indigenous Peoples History month and in advance of the June 2 anniversary of the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
“In the days since the discovery of the remains of children from Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation and those who attended Kamloops Indian Residential School, there has been an outpour of support to our people and communities. Flags are half mast, children’s shoes line the steps at Parliament and at monuments across the country and an orange wave is washing over social media. All eyes are on First Nations as we attempt to digest the most recent evidence of the genocide against our people, our children.
We have the attention of our non-Indigenous brothers and sisters, many of whom seek direction on how to show support. It’s incumbent on us right now to work together to seize the opportunity to harness this awareness and this energy. Everyone has a role. Every single government and person in Canada can help drive change, to honour our shared history and commit to doing better as a country.
The Government of Canada must respond to First Nations seeking assistance in finding our lost children and support our mourning First Nations communities. We deeply appreciate the support of so many concerned Canadians. I demand that all governments commit to supporting First Nations seeking thorough investigations into former residential school sites and to take any, and all action available to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.
The resources and efforts currently being put toward a judicial review of the 2016 Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision should be invested in fulfilling the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Calls to Justice of the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous women and Girls.
Moments of silence are respectful and heartfelt, but we need to see real action. I demand the federal government stop fighting our children in court and implement the orders from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. Provincial and territorial governments must stop apprehending our children and work with First Nations to fully implement the Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families.
We need to see real action to end the systemic racism that persists in every single system in the country. And we need to see Parliament implement international human rights standards in Canada by passing C-15, the proposed legislation on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The discovery at Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation confirms what First Nations have believed for decades took place at residential schools. With increased awareness, it’s my hope there will be increased understanding for the searing reality of intergenerational impacts of the “Indian” Residential School system.
I encourage every single person in Canada to stand with First Nations as we press forward for action to ensure our children are returned to their people to finally receive the respect and dignity not provided to them in life.
I encourage any concerned Canadian to write their Member of Parliament to press for the full implementation of all the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. We must continue to reveal the truth, no matter how painful, in order to move toward reconciliation.”
The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations people in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.