By Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – As some Canadians plan to celebrate Canada Day this year as normal, First Nations and their allies are in mourning over recent uncovering of mass graves at the sites of residential schools and the retraumatization it has lead to.
On June 30, the Lower Kootenay Band became the most recent First Nation to make this macabre rediscovery, announcing it had found 182 unmarked graves close to the St. Eugene’s Mission School near Cranbrook, B.C.
But the highest concentration of residential schools in Canada was on Treaty 8 land, with 11 of the 25 forced assimilation “schools” in Alberta.
In a statement, the Sovereign Nations of Treaty 8 pointed out that residential schools are only the tip of the iceberg.
“What has not been considered is that many schools were relocated during their operation – there could be multiple burial sites,” the statement reads. “Residential schools are not the only sites we should be looking to for our kin. Day schools, where Indigenous children faced similar horrors, were also in operation across this country and of course, the Charles Camsell hospital.”
The Charles Camsell hospital is located in Edmonton, where Treaty 8 members were sent for “medical treatment,” which involved experimentation, torture, sterilization and murder.
In the same statement, the Treaty 8 Chiefs point out the Liberal federal government, despite its rhetoric of reconciliation and acknowledgement of “cultural genocide”, continues to fight Indigenous children in court over child welfare payments and the rights of Indigenous children off reserve.
They are calling on provincial and territorial governments to release all information they have about the burial sites; the Roman Catholic Church and Anglican Church to release all its records that would assist in the search for more remains; the feds to provide the means necessary to conduct more searches; and for all levels of government and church denominations to acknowledge their responsibility in the genocide of Indigenous peoples.
“We will develop a plan to search our own lands for our children. There is no trust in the levels of government and churches to assist us; we fear they would contaminate the findings or claim no remains found,” the statement says.
The federal government has offered $27 million over three years to assist in the search for more remains, which the chiefs say is insufficient.
“The federal government must be held accountable to their own standards,” they say. “Canada has projected an image of peacekeeping and humanitarianism around the world. Yet, simultaneously, they fight the victims of residential schools in court, destroy records of government funded genocide, and dismiss their responsibility in perpetuating genocide in their own country.”
The 11 residential school on Treaty 8 territory are:
- Assumption (Hay Lakes) in Assumption, Alta.
- St. Martin’s Roman Catholic in Desmarais
- St. John’s Anglican in Wabasca
- St. Henry’s in Fort Vermillion
- St. Bernard’s in Grouard
- St. Bruno’s in Joussard
- Holy Angel’s in Fort Chipewyan
- St. Peter’s in Slave Lake
- St. Augustine in Smoky River
- St. Francis Xavier in Calais
- St. Andrew’s on Whitefish First Nation