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Montreal Quakers
 

Letter to the Prime Minister about unmarked graves at residential schools


We write to you as the Montreal Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. We meet on the unceded traditional territories of the Kanien’kehá:ka people, on the island Tioh’tiá:ke, which has long served as a meeting place for many Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island.

We wish to express profound gratitude to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and all those who contributed to the success of their work. Thanks to their efforts, we understand that residential schools were a part of a series of genocidal actions and policies undertaken by the federal government against Indigenous peoples. Residential schools systematically uprooted generations of Indigenous children, who were forcibly removed from their homes, isolated, abused, indoctrinated, and even subjected to medical experimentation.

Many children who died in residential schools were written off without explanation or ceremony. The thousands of missing children and hundreds of unmarked graves unearthed since May 2021 testify to the atrocities committed. We grieve for these beloved children who were sacrificed to our genocidal system. We grieve for their families, friends, and communities. We grieve for the callous actions done to them by our society and our government.

The first step in the process of truth and reconciliation is uncovering and laying bare the truth. The federal government and our society as a whole must take responsibility for past actions. Locating and identifying all the unmarked graves at residential schools across Canada must be informed by Indigenous communities. We also call on the federal government to engage in respectful collaboration with Indigenous communities regarding any follow-up actions, including but not limited to criminal investigations and compensation for survivors and their families, as well as the families of children who did not return home.

The Summary of the Executive Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada details how the federal government has repeatedly failed to take action to rectify past wrongdoings. We call on the federal government to act in good faith and fully implement all ninety-four Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report. We are dismayed with the slow progress toward meeting these goals. The Calls to Action are thorough and wide-reaching and critical to the healing and revitalization of Indigenous communities. Pressing actions include:

  • Nullifying laws that enabled residential schools
  • Nullifying laws that continue to enable other acts of genocide
  • Supporting revitalization of Indigenous languages and cultures
  • Addressing the disproportionate representation of Indigenous people in prison
  • Ensuring all Indigenous people can access clean drinking water and health care
  • Providing funding and resources to Indigenous nations to create their own infrastructures, such as education and health care
  • Educating the public about the genocidal history of residential schools.

In line with Calls to action 62 - 70, we call on the federal government to ensure that all of Canada knows about the legacy of residential schools through not only primary, secondary, and post-secondary education, but also other avenues of popular education such as museums and youth programs. We have much to learn as Canadians so that we may establish relationships of respect and integrity with Indigenous peoples on this shared land.

The Calls to Action are a generous gift: a pathway toward addressing the harms that Canada has perpetuated and establishing respectful relationships with Indigenous peoples. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has laid out a clear pathway to change our relationship with Indigenous peoples and we must act on it.

Signed for and on behalf of Montreal Quakers

Mailed to:

Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2