Dear Honourable Member Nelly Shin,
Thank you for your service to our community during this challenging time.
I imagine that you must feel as I do — heartbroken, overwhelmed — and at a loss for words in response to the discovery of the bodies of 215 children (children!) in unmarked graves on the site of the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc residential school.
My sorrow turns to anger as I think about the fact that the TRC [Truth and Reconciliation Committee] requested funds to identify mass graves at residential schools over a decade ago, and that funding was denied.
It is well known that many children disappeared in residential schools, causing their families great pain and anguish.
It is imperative that all the missing children be brought home to their communities immediately so that their relatives can arrange appropriate ceremonies and have peace and closure.
If these were your relatives, what would you want to see happen?
As a settler, privileged to live on these Lands, I feel compelled to convey to you how strongly I feel about the need for our government to show respect to the Survivors of residential schools and their families by swiftly and respectfully enacting the remaining 84 of the 94 TRC Calls to Action that are currently incomplete.
Most pressing is to enact care for those who are vulnerable or have immediate needs.
Indigenous communities must be empowered to oversee the care of their children currently in the foster care system with ample funding.
Foster care has produced similar results as residential schools, removing children from their families, their communities and their cultures, making them incredibly vulnerable.
If these were your children, what would you want to see happen?
In addition, it is critical to support Survivors unilaterally, ensuring that they and their families are cared for and their needs are met regardless of their specific experiences in residential or day schools or their ability to prove it.
Processes that require Survivors to disclose and prove abuse in order to receive compensation are unnecessarily painful and inequitable.
I implore you to advocate for the Survivors and their families to demand that the Canadian government respectfully compensate any individual who attended residential school or day school and provide the support that they require to heal, as we do for our veterans. If these were your Elders, what would you want to see happen?
We have a window of opportunity to come together as diverse communities of people, outraged and in mourning, and take immediate action out of respect for the deceased and their families.
It is the leadership of the federal government that will determine whether this heartbreaking discovery (of what we always knew was there) will unite us in transformative reconciliation as a country, or further divide us.
Change is often difficult and often takes time; however, we have seen during COVID-19 that change can be rapidly enacted during an emergency.
Could there be any greater emergency than the discovery of mass graves of children resulting from government-sanctioned colonial violence?
If this does not move us to immediate action as a country, what will? If this happened in another country outside of Canada, what would you want to see happen?
Thank you for representing my voice in parliament.
- Cher Hill, resident of Port Moody-Coquitlam riding