The Communist Party of Canada expresses deep sorrow and sympathy to the Indigenous survivors of 500 years of colonial and capitalist genocide, including more than a century of the residential school system which forcibly removed 150,000 children from their families, and is responsible for the death of thousands.
We support the AFN’s demand that the federal government immediately act to uncover other mass graves of children in residential schools across Canada and to identify and repatriate the remains to their families and communities.
We demand that the federal government and Parliament act now to implement all of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, of which only 10 of 94 have been implemented to date, and another 24 are ‘in progress’, 40 are under discussion, and 20 haven’t been touched. We further demand that the recommendations of the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls must also be enacted now.
The mass burial at Kamloops cannot be unknown to the churches and the government which ran and oversaw these schools. It was not a mistake, it was a policy. Removing and separating children from their families was the beginning of a brutality which often ended in death, from physical, emotional and sexual abuse in the “schools”, or later from the life-long impacts of abuse on themselves, their families, and communities.
The stated purpose of this policy was to ‘take the Indian out of the child’. And to forcibly separate Indigenous Peoples from their land, and the resources under it, which companies, and now trans-national corporations, have coveted since the arrival of Europeans. The Beothuk of what is now Newfoundland were systematically hunted, starved, and sickened until none survived. Bounties were offered for the scalps of Indigenous people in the Maritimes and in many parts of Canada. With the colonizers came diseases such as smallpox, the deadliest killer of the children forced into the residential schools, and of all the Indigenous peoples removed from their lands and confined on reserves by the RCMP. During the 1940s and ‘50s, children in residential schools were used as subjects in nutritional test experiments and as subjects in medical tests. Testing of drugs on Indigenous Peoples was also conducted on reserves without the knowledge or consent of the subjects. The residential school system and the Sixties Scoop were not an aberration, but an extension of these genocidal policies in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Altogether these were policies of colonial and capitalist governments, carried out by every Canadian government since Confederation. It was not just one bad government, it was systemic. It was genocide.
The federal government and the churches involved in the residential schools must be held accountable for what are clearly mass crimes against an identifiable group: Indigenous children and youth.
The impact of these policies is the suicide rate among Indigenous youth that is 10 times higher than non-Indigenous youth, life expectancy that is 10 – 15 years shorter than the non-Indigenous population; infant mortality that is 2 to 4 times greater; a tuberculosis rate for Inuit that is 290 times higher; deep poverty that is the norm with 48% of First Nations’ households lacking sufficient income to provide food for a month; overcrowding and notoriously poor housing conditions, a pre-pandemic unemployment rate of 62% , and more than 30% of those imprisoned in Canada are Indigenous, though Indigenous people comprise only 5% of the population of Canada.
This is inter-generational trauma and PTSD resulting from Canada’s genocidal policies.
The TRC recommendations would go a long way to redress these policies, and to improve the lives of Indigenous Peoples who are its victims. The Liberals have promised since 2015 to address the most urgent and egregious issues, including clean water, sewage, housing, healthcare and education, but delivered very little. Their first budget promised funding that was all back-ended to 2022 or later, making implementation virtually impossible. The Liberals got the photo-ops, Indigenous Peoples got next to nothing, other than more broken promises.
Further, the government continues its appeals of the 2016 Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling of systemic discrimination against First Nations children, and refuses to fund children’s health and education services at the same rate as it funds the health and education of non-Indigenous children in Canada. The government also refuses to pay the $40,000 per child award made by the Tribunal to First Nations’ children affected by this discrimination between 2006 and the present.
The Liberals’ 2019 transfer of jurisdiction for children’s services to Indigenous control contains no consistent, stable and statutory funding for these services. Indigenous Peoples have the ‘right’ to control health, education and welfare, but no means and no money to deliver these services.
The widespread expectation that the Liberals would deliver on their 2015 promises to forge a new equal partnership with Indigenous Peoples in Canada has shown itself to be more smoke and mirrors.
Meanwhile the 40 year old mercury crisis in the English-Wabigoon river system that has poisoned generations of Indigenous peoples continues despite government promises to the contrary. And the Coastal Gas pipelines continues to push through Wet’suwet’en territory, despite the strong objections of Indigenous Peoples concerning their sovereignty, and despite the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples requiring free, prior and informed consent. Land claims are held up indefinitely by the federal government, while developers build on the Haldimand Tract in Ontario and other Indigenous land across Canada. And the Sixties Scoop continues with 10,000 Indigenous children in foster care in Manitoba alone, and totaling 52.2% of all foster children in Canada.
The Liberals’ promise of ‘nation to nation’ relations with Indigenous Peoples is conditional on Indigenous consent and cooperation with Ottawa’s policies. Nothing changes.
The discovery in Kamloops shows that everything has to change, now.
The Communist Party calls for immediate action to recognize national sovereignty, equality and justice. It starts with implementation of the TRC recommendations, and those of the MMIWG, and the provision of statutory funding to enable Indigenous nations to urgently address the economic and social crisis, systemic racism and the impacts of genocide facing Indigenous peoples across Canada.
The Communist Party of Canada stands with Indigenous Peoples across the country in their fight for justice, and for national sovereignty and equality.
Parliament should do no less.
Central Executive Committee
Communist Party of Canada