Statement by the Deans of Law on the Discovery of the Remains of 215 Indigenous Children in Kamloops, BC

Posted on Monday, May 31, 2021

As Deans of the Civil Law Section and the Common Law Section of the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa, we are horrified by the discovery of the remains of 215 children at the site of the former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia. We find it particularly abhorrent that these deaths were never documented by the authorities and that families and communities were not given the opportunity to properly grieve the loss of their children who died as a result of a policy of cultural genocide.

Families and Indigenous nations have long spoken of children who went to residential schools and never returned. In 2007, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) was given a specific mandate to document the situation of missing children and unmarked burial sites in residential schools. It created a working group and proposed to conduct four research projects, including to the extent possible, the location of burial sites. This work could not be completed, however, as a request by the Commission to the Department of Indian Affairs in 2009 for additional funding was denied (TRC, vol. 4, p. 6).  Nevertheless, the Commission has done considerable work and dedicates an entire volume of its final report to "Missing Children and Unmarked Burials" (Volume 4). It also issued six specific calls to action (#71-76). We invite all members of our community to read this important report.  It is time for the full extent of this genocide to be revealed and for the calls to action to be implemented.

As law schools, we must also be more committed than ever to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. As teachers and researchers, it is imperative that we continue to contribute to the work of truth-telling, continue the fight against discrimination, and create spaces for discussion and action within our programs and in our research activities.

Finally, we extend our sympathy to Indigenous families and nations in British Columbia and across Canada, and to all Indigenous students, faculty and staff at the Faculty of Law and the University of Ottawa.

We encourage anyone who feels the need to do so to contact the Hope for Wellness Helpline, which provides counselling and crisis intervention services to all Indigenous people in Canada, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To reach the Crisis Line, call toll-free 1-855-242-3310 or chat online.  The Ottawa Distress Centre's distress and support lines are also available 24 hours a day to all members of our community. Distress Line: 613-238-3311; Crisis Line 613.722.6914 or toll free at 1.866.996.0991 (https://www.dcottawa.on.ca/i-need-help/.

Marie-Eve Sylvestre and Adam Dodek
Deans of the Faculty of Law (Civil Law and Common Law Sections)
University of Ottawa

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