Guest post by Alison Tedford, a freelance writer and digital marketer from Abbotsford. She is a mom and is a proud member of Kwakiutl First Nation.
A letter by Bishop O’Grady has circulated around social media outlining the conditions under which Indigenous children could come home from residential schools for the holidays. The name of Kamloops Indian Residential School in the letterhead is haunting when you consider what was discovered: 215 small bodies hidden under the earth of the school grounds.
The typewritten words say, “It will be your privilege this year to have your children spend Christmas at home with you … This is a privilege which is being granted if you observe the following regulations … I ask you to observe the above regulations in order that this privilege of going home for Christmas may be continued from year to year.”
The privilege that was letting them come home was underscored.The government and school administrators held the power to keep Indigenous children at school, far from their families and their communities. Indigenous children were legally required to attend schools where they faced hunger, abuse, and a risk of death higher than a World War II soldier. All because they were born Indigenous.
The 215 children who were found on the grounds of that school this week never got to come home. Their parents never had that “privilege” – of knowing what happened to their kids and where they were laid to rest. When you consider the number of schools, the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the reality is there were far more than 215, there were thousands and we don’t know how many mass graves just like the one at Kamloops Residential School exist. We don’t know because the government declined the budget required to investigate further. They refused to fund the investigation of their crimes against Indigenous children.
Indigenous communities have been waiting for far too long already for answers and the Christmas where all the kids could come home still hasn’t happened. The Honourable Murray Sinclair said to prepare ourselves that more sites like these will be found and it’s time to start looking. The locations of the schools are not a mystery and these are crime scenes where children died.
Residential schools closed down 25 years ago, and it’s time to let those kids come home. It’s time to uncover the truth of what happened in these schools and to return them to their communities. It’s the right thing to do and after treating the return of Indigenous children to their families as a privilege for so long, it’s time for Canada to take responsibility for doing just that. Let them come home.
A donation to the Indian Residential School Survivor Society was made in lieu of payment.