VANCOUVER | TRADITIONAL, UNCEDED TERRITORIES OF THE xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (MUSQUEAM), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (SQUAMISH) AND səlilwətaɬ (TSLEIL-WAUTUTH) FIRST NATIONS (May 31, 2021) — Upon the discovery of an unmarked burial site where 215 former Kamloops Indian Residential School students were buried, the David Suzuki Foundation extends its deepest sympathies to all members of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, and to all Indigenous people whose lives have been devastated by Canada’s residential school system and racism.

“This horrific discovery reiterates what Indigenous families have been saying all along: that their children went missing,” the David Suzuki Foundation’s acting executive director Ian Bruce said. “This is a stark and devastating reminder that Canada’s colonial roots are built on a racist ethos. It reveals the colossal scale of the work that needs to happen if true reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples on this land is to be possible.”

From 1883 to 1996, Canada’s residential school system removed nearly 150,000 Indigenous children from their families. They were sent to government-funded, church-run institutions, in an attempt to assimilate them. Their identities and languages were denied, and many faced neglect, and physical and sexual abuse, including medical experimentation. It is estimated that at least 4,100 Indigenous children died while attending the schools — the equivalent of the number of children in 155 average Canadian grade school classrooms. The grisly discovery of this unreported burial site reveals that, as Indigenous people in Canada have long claimed, the death toll is much higher.

“Today, we mourn the loss of these children. In the coming days, people in Canada must call for accountability and justice. That means demanding our Canadian government follow through on the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, upholding Indigenous rights and title and, for those of us who are settlers, committing to dismantling racism in our social circles and country,” Bruce said.

The David Suzuki Foundation calls on the federal government to urgently follow through on all Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action, including the six focused on missing children and burial information.

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