Indigenous Children Deserve Justice

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Photo credit: Cole Burston/ Getty Images

Content warning: This message contains details about abuses suffered at Canada’s residential schools. 

Dear Friends,

On May 27th, the remains of 215 Indigenous children, some as young as three years old, were found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. 

Although this horrific news has shaken the country, it should not come as shock. For decades, residential school survivors have courageously shared their stories of atrocities they experienced—including stories of children who disappeared suddenly, children whose deaths they witnessed, children who, in some cases, they themselves were forced to bury. 

We mourn these children and others who never made it home—children who never should have been taken from their families. We are in solidarity with residential school survivors, their families, and all First Nations, Inuit and Métis people who are grieving and in mourning.  

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 against Indigenous peoples continue.  

Canada is responsible for these colonial policies and discriminatory practices, and Canada must take responsibility for ending human rights abuses against Indigenous peoples now.  

Please call on Prime Minister Trudeau to act now to ensure justice and accountability—not only for the 215 children whose bodies were buried at the Kamloops Indian Residential School—but for all First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples in Canada. 

The devastating abuses resulting from Canada’s colonialist policies—including the terrible deprivations and abuses inflicted on so many of the children who were cruelly torn from their families and communities, as well as the loss of language, community cohesion and cultural knowledge and skills—continue today.

  • Métis, Inuit, and First Nations children continue to be disproportionately represented in the child welfare system;
  • First Nations children living on reserve receive less money for healthcare and education than other children in Canada;
  • Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people experience staggeringly high rates of violence;
  • Inuit, Métis, and First Nations people too often experience racism when interacting with public services like the police and the healthcare system;
  • And governments frequently approve industrial projects on Indigenous territories without free, prior, and informed consent or recognition of Indigenous laws and scientific knowledge. 

The reports of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, plus numerous reviews by the UN and other international human rights bodies, have exposed abuses against Indigenous peoples in Canada and made thousands of recommendations to Canada to ensure justice and accountability for Indigenous peoples. 

Despite ample documentation of abuses and clear recommendations for change, the Canadian government continues to resist real justice and accountability. 

It should not take such a tragic discovery to spur action. Please act now to call on Canada to implement these calls to action without delay.

Thank you for your support and for speaking out today for this long overdue action. Every Canadian today has a duty to ensure justice and accountability for the harms experienced by First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.  

In solidarity,  

Ketty Nivyabandi 
Secretary General 
Amnesty International Canada 

P.S. Thank you for taking action in support of the rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada. After you send a message to Prime Minister Trudeau, please read this blog for further ideas on how you can continue to take action to ensure justice and accountability not only for the 215 Indigenous children whose bodies are buried on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, but for all First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples in Canada. 

The Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society is available for survivors and those affected at 1-800-721-0066 or on the 24 hour crisis line at 1-866-925-4419. British Columbia has a First Nations and Indigenous Crisis Line offered through the KUU-US Crisis Line Society at 1-800-588-9717.