“We clearly still don’t know the whole truth about residential schools”

Jgrew up in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, in the Canadian Arctic. As a child, I would pass by Grollier Hall, one of the most famous residential schools in the country for its sexual violence. But my parents would tell me to take a detour when I got home from school. This boarding school, run by the religious community of the Oblates, was part of a whole network of establishments practicing genocidal policies. This network of establishments was itself a cog in the colonial machine.

Other parts of the machine were the Indian Act, the “Indian Act” (1876); policies aimed at starving the populations of the western plains of the country; and the forced internment of indigenous people in “Indian sanatoriums” and psychiatric institutions. Grollier Hall is one of the last Canadian residential schools to close, in 1996.

Create “a country of white men”

Countless children have died in residential schools. Families, communities and First Nations have known for a long time that some of our ancestors disappeared or lost their lives in troubled conditions. On May 27, 2021, Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation announced that the remains of approximately 215 children had been located using ground penetrating radar at the former Indigenous Residential School in Kamloops, British Columbia. On June 23, the Cowessess First Nation, which lives in the province of Saskatchewan, reported that 751 anonymous graves had been discovered at the former Marieval residential school.

Then on June 29, the Lower Kootenay First Nation in British Columbia revealed that 182 anonymous graves had been found at the site of the former Kootenay Residential School – the site of a golf course today. These announcements have plunged the Indigenous Nations [qui, outre les Premières Nations, comprennent les Inuits et les Métis] in mourning and sadness. But, in a way, we’ve been mourning these deaths and the disappearance of our cultures for much longer.

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Canadians said they were “shocked” by the news. These reactions show how little is known about the genocidal nature of the Canadian colonial state. Colonialism and its consequences for the indigenous peoples of Canada is not a “dark chapter” in the history of the country; colonialism is the main crux of a history that defines this country.

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