Feb 032023

Ever since the May 2021 revelation of 215 potential unmarked graves at the former “residential school” in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation (Kamloops), similar discoveries have been made across Canada. This is a searing indictment of the genocidal record of Canadian governments, which still fail to provide the resources and equipment necessary to answer many painful questions raised by survivors of these institutions and their families. Shamefully, while the federal Liberals commit tens of billions of dollars for fighter jets and other weapons systems, they have not made it a priority to help bring some degree of closure and certainty to Indigenous peoples who were the targets of cultural and physical genocide.

Even as the Liberals drag their feet, investigators recently found 66 more potential unmarked graves in Williams Lake, BC. Added to 93 found previously by ground-penetration technology, this brings the total to 159 at this one location, which operated from 1886 to 1981. Young boys ran away from this institution, risking death from exposure, while others ate poisonous water hemlock, apparently in response to harsh discipline.

Similar tragic stories have been known for many years, but only recently has the discovery of unmarked graves forced Canadian society to reflect on the realities of anti-Indigenous genocide. More than 150,000 First Nations, Metis and Inuit children were forced to attend the 139 so-called “residential schools”, which operated from 1825 until the last one closed in the 1990s. Funded by the Canadian government and run by religious denominations, the mission was to wipe out Indigenous traditions and assimilate the children into white culture. Truth and Reconciliation Commission chair Justice Murray Sinclair has suggested that the number of deaths in these institutions may exceed 6,000, as a result of disease, hunger, fires and abuse. Some were buried in mass graves, others in graves that became obscured over the years; often the families were given little information about these deaths. More than 1,900 unmarked graves have been uncovered to date, and the number is climbing.

The Communist Party of Canada expresses our condolences to all the survivors and their families who continue to suffer ongoing trauma as new revelations come to light. We renew our demand for the federal government to prioritize resources to help reveal the full extent of this genocidal history, as part of a much wider struggle to fully Implement the Calls for Action of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission and the Calls for Justice from the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada