Residential Schools

By: The Hon. Brian Francis

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Hon. Brian Francis: Honourable senators, despite overwhelming research and evidence showing that for over a century, Indigenous children were forcibly taken to residential schools and other institutions where they were subjected to rampant neglect, abuse and even death, many people in Canada continue to not just outright deny the hard facts but invalidate and undermine them.

The use of such rhetoric and tactics in politics, media and all other forums must be strongly confronted and condemned. Our silence is complicity and violence.

We must use our positions of power and privilege to amplify the voices and experiences of survivors who have fought relentlessly to ensure that the shameful truth of Canada’s treatment of Indigenous people is known and addressed.

They are owed our utmost respect, gratitude and support for their strength, courage and resolve, sometimes at great personal cost, to demand better from all of us — and all levels of government and society.

We also have to honour the innocent children who died at residential schools and associated institutions, like hospitals.

Many were buried at unmarked locations that were never disclosed to their loved ones and which continue to be disrespected. Let’s ensure their spirits and bodies finally receive the honour, respect and dignity they deserve.

Colleagues, Indigenous people must lead the important and sacred work of uncovering, documenting and sharing the truth of the genocide inflicted on us, as well as the search, recovery, identification, protection and commemoration of our missing children. Parliamentarians and others must empower them in doing so.

This work conducted by, with and on behalf of survivors, in the pursuit of truth, justice, healing and reconciliation — often without the necessary funding, resources or even authority — is critical to addressing the wrongs of the past and present and moving Canada towards a better future for all.

Today, following a moving and compelling appearance at the Committee on Indigenous Peoples, we are joined by Kimberly Murray, the Independent Special Interlocutor for Missing Children and Unmarked Graves and Burial Sites associated with Indian Residential Schools, her colleagues Executive Director Wendelyn Johnson and Senior Partner Donald Worme, as well as Stephanie Scott, Executive Director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, her Executive Assistant Carmen Roy and survivor and Elder Barbara Cameron.

I am endlessly grateful and inspired by them and all those who engage in this difficult, challenging and often painful journey to assist survivors and their families, communities and governments, and Canada as a whole. I pray the Creator continues to guide and protect them, and urge leaders inside and outside this chamber to listen, believe and support them today and every day.

Wela’lin, thank you.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

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