Since the video played was produced, 215 unmarked graves at Kamloops Residential School, 182 in Cranbrook Residential School, and 751 in Marieval Residential school have been discovered. These truths have inflicted pain, outrage, and sorrow in and out of Indigenous communities. It should be noted that these truths have been well known from oral history in Indigenous communities for years. Former Member of the Senate, Murray Sinclair, says that finally “we have not only opened people’s eyes, but we have turned people’s heads… The ones who used to look away now can no longer look away.” This is a massive step in the right direction.
In the next couple minutes, I want to emphasize that the harm caused by residential schools is not a matter of the past. It is not even a matter of just 20 years ago. The harm caused by residential schools is a matter of today.
“The living standard of indigenous peoples in Canada falls far short of people living in non-indigenous communities, and they remain, as a group, among the poorest in Canada. In 2016/2017, Indigenous adults accounted for 27% of prisoners in federal custody, while representing only 4.1% of the Canadian adult population. Suicide rates amongst Indigenous Canadians are three times higher than the national average. Indigenous Canadians are less likely to graduate from high school, have higher unemployment rates, and nearly double the number of infant deaths than non-Indigenous Canadians.”
All of this is a lot to process and take in. The purpose of highlighting this truth is not to dim the mood or pass any blame, but simply to show that community disruption, the loss of culture and language, and generational trauma from Residential Schools cause ongoing issues. Residential schools, coupled with other factors, have produced two different environments for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians today, which yield different cyclical outcomes. This is to say that today, even with no bad or mal-intended actors, different outcomes will continue to cause harm disproportionately in Indigenous communities, unless positive change is made. Acknowledging this, we can approach issues that we face together as Canadians with empathy and a thorough understanding, listen and learn with an open ear to Indigenous communities and their needs, and create solutions together as the next generation that work for everyone.