Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his beautiful speech.
I want to start out today by sending my sincere solidarity to all the survivors, families and communities that were shaken once again by the discovery at the Kamloops residential school, particularly the Tk’emlúps te Secwe´pemc First Nation. I lift them them up today and every day.
The TRC reported that at least 40% to 60% of all children who attended the schools died, and sometimes, as I indicated yesterday, according to Mary-Ellen Kelm, as a result of purposely exposing children to infections such as TB, spreading the disease throughout the school population. Murray Sinclair, who chaired the TRC, has indicated that he believes the death count could be much higher due to the schools' poor burial records, as many as 25,000. These are burial grounds that we know about, but the current government has failed to act to bring our loved ones home.
On calls to action 71 to 76 of the TRC report, former lead commissioner Murray Sinclair has indicated there has been no action. Once again, it was left up to indigenous peoples to find our own loved ones.
These findings have left shockwaves of trauma, grief, hurt and betrayal throughout indigenous nations across the country, as a result of the violent genocide perpetrated against indigenous children and families simply for being who they were, for no other reason than to advance the government's economic agenda, behaviours that continue today. These violent acts were rooted in the violent dispossession of lands, eradicating our cultures and leaving us sometimes sheltered on our very own lands. This included attempting to assimilate our children to get us out of the way, which we are now finding out resulted in the deaths of thousands of children, a genocide.
Here we are again today fighting to get immediate resources and support from the government in order to, at the very least, provide families with closure as a result of this genocide. We are fighting with the federal government to stop fighting first nations kids in court and St. Anne's residential school survivors. This is a government that will not even acknowledge that what it committed and continues to commit against indigenous peoples in Canada is genocide. The hope of achieving some sort of justice and closure is waning.
Former commissioner Murray Sinclair stated:
I can hear not only the pain and the anguish, but also the anger that no one believed the stories they had told. I can also hear their sense that they have lost some hope that maybe those children that hadn't returned might still be found. They now know that may not happen.
These are the sacred lives of children exposed to acts of genocide who never returned home, which was a violent violation of human rights.
Let us not forget the parents. I have spoken before in this House about the countless stories from parents and the heartache they feel each September when their children were robbed once again and taken away to residential schools. There was no more laughter, play or joy. Imagine how their heartache grew when their children never returned home, never to hear the echoes of laughter and play, never to have closure, wondering where their babies were. These were cruel, violent acts of genocide, something the government refuses to acknowledge, continuing to leave it up for debate whether indigenous peoples experienced genocide in residential schools.
In fact, there is a class action lawsuit involving 101 first nations seeking reparations from the federal government for the impact of residential schools, and the federal government continues to deny any legal responsibility. In court filings, the government “admits the schools were meant to 'assimilate' Indigenous people, but denies the federal governments of that era 'sought to destroy the ability…to speak their Indigenous language or to lose the customs or traditions of their culture.'” This is a government that has made genocide denial a norm.
The truth needs to be honoured. The experience of parents needs to be honoured and lifted up. I wish to honour all parents and families today who lost loved ones as a result of genocide. We will fight to bring home their children, their siblings, their cousins, their aunties, their uncles, their sisters and brothers. The number of murdered and missing indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people is reported as a genocide in the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls.
Genocide continues, with no action from the federal government. There was an announcement today of releasing an action plan, but the implementation plan is still to come, with no release date in sight. This is something that Chief Judy Wilson, secretary-treasurer of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, has called “another delay, a tactic, and also delaying the funding resources that families of survivors need now. We have people today going missing and murdered. Things have got to change now.” She went on to state, “Canada’s genocidal legacy is going to continue because there's no change, real leadership, and real commitment. We just get the flowery reconciliation speeches that fall short in action.”
Pam Palmater, a professor from Ryerson University, stated, “That's code for we didn’t come up with a plan”, further noting that “[a] plan that doesn’t have concrete actions, clear timelines, and measurable outcomes is not acceptable”.
There is a growing distrust from indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people across this country, including NWAC, which has lost faith in the federal government and is done with its “toxic, dysfunctional” process. Instead, NWAC is planning to release its own national action plan, which President Lorraine Whitman said is one that “puts families, not politics, first.”
Let us not forget the millennium scoop and the fact that the government continues to break the law, failing to uphold the Human Rights Tribunal ruling to immediately stop racially discriminating against first nations children on reserve.
Canadian hero Cindy Blackstock has affirmed in The Tyee the following:
The federal government has repeatedly failed to adequately compensate 165,000 First Nations children and families whose childhoods—and lives—were stolen through government neglect....
What we know from the tribunal’s uncontested legal findings is that Canada’s non-compliance has been linked to the deaths of some children, harms to other children and unnecessary family separations of thousands of others. So it’s not unlike the types of things that children in residential schools faced. Canada is continuing that behaviour.
She went on to further note, “It reinforces the responsibility that I and everyone else have to make sure the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action are actually implemented. And that the federal government stops fighting against the equity of First Nations, Métis and Inuit children today, and stops fighting residential school survivors in court.”
The residential schools, the sixties scoop, the millennium scoop and MMIWG are a continuation of ongoing genocide. As Murray Sinclair stated in The Globe and Mail in 2018, “We would have been apprehended by the child-welfare system if it had been organized as it is today.”
I am asking all members of the House to support this motion, to listen to calls coming from indigenous peoples across this country and act now.