Lowering flags is not enough. Indigenous children deserve justice and accountability.
The remains of 215 Indigenous children were found buried on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia on 27 May 2021.
Amnesty International mourns these children and and those who never came home. We are in solidarity with residential school survivors, their families, and all First Nations, Inuit and Métis people who are grieving and mourning. These children should never have been taken from their families.
Residential schools were part of a colonial policy to eradicate Indigenous cultures, languages and communities. While the last school closed in 1996, intergenerational trauma, ongoing harms and discriminatory practices continue.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, national investigations, the United Nations, and several other international human rights bodies have repeatedly called on Canada to address these human rights violations and ensure justice for survivors and their families. The bulk of these recommendations remain unimplemented. Canada must act on these recommendations now.
Amnesty International urges Canada to act on these recommendations without delay, including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ 231 Calls for Justice. Canada must also, without delay, implement the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal’s decision on providing equal funding for child and family services in First Nations communities.
"While flags have been lowered to half mast in honor of the 215 children killed in residential schools, this is far from enough," said Ketty Nivyabandi, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada (English branch). "Other schools need be investigated, burial sites need to be located and protected, and those responsible held accountable for these grave human rights violations. The Canadian government and institutions must finally act on the numerous calls to action spelled out in the Truth and Reconciliation commission, national inquiries and reports. It should not take such a tragic discovery to spur action."
We further call on the government to press forward with and pass Bill C-15 which requires the current government – and future governments – to work collaboratively with Indigenous peoples to develop a national implementation plan with priorities and deadlines, as well as to bring federal laws into line with the requirements of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Bill C-15 is an important foundation for confronting colonialism and addressing the urgent needs of Indigenous peoples and communities.
For anyone seeking support at this exceptionally difficult time, the number for the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is 1-866-925-4419. British Columbia has a First Nations and Indigenous Crisis Line offered through the KUU-US Crisis Line Society, toll-free at 1-800-588-8717.