The discovery of burial sites for 215 children at the site of the former Kamloops residential school is truly horrific and shocking to many people. But Indigenous people in this country, and those who have been listening to the survivors of the residential school system, are not surprised by this discovery. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission report estimates that there were 4,100 deaths at the residential schools in Canada but Former Truth and Reconciliation Commission chair and retired Senator Murray Sinclair estimates that the number could be much higher, as many as 25,000. The unmarked graves at residential schools have always been known about, and the TRC calls to action number 71 to 76 address the issues of missing children and burial information specifically.
The residential school system, in coordination with other legislation in the racist Indian Act, meet the criteria of a genocide under Article 2 of Genocide Convention. I encourage all Canadians to read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report and the 94 calls to action. At the bottom of this blog is a parliamentary petition related to the TRC calls to action 71-76.
The Awakening of Elizabeth Shaw
The Awakening of Elizabeth Shaw, is a film based on a letter my father Jim Manly found while researching land claims in 1993. The find prompted a research project into residential schools by my parents who then uncovered a series of response letters and other documentation. My mother, Eva Manly directed the film, which was researched and written by her and my dad. I co-produced it with her and did the technical work - camera and editing. My adoptive grandmother, my sister Heather's biological grandmother Irene Starr of the Haisla Nation sings at the beginning and at the end. Granny Irene was a residential school survivor. The film was broadcast nationally and internationally and is part of the BC school curriculum resource list.
In 1898 Elizabeth Shaw went to the Tsimshian village of Port Simpson in Northern B.C. and worked for five weeks as the Matron of the Crosby Boys’ Home, a residence for First Nations children. She was extremely upset by what she saw at the home and left. Later, while teaching in Greenville-Lakalzap, she wrote a letter to the Women’s Missionary Society of the Methodist Church describing the bad food and harsh treatment at the home, and detailing a case of physical abuse of a young woman there. Excerpts were forwarded to the Superintendent of the Methodist Church in Toronto who arranged for an investigation. When the investigative report was released stating no change of management was recommended, Mrs. Shaw suffered a breakdown of her health and returned to Ontario.
Five years later, in response to complaints of the same nature from parents and from the Village Band Council, Rev. A.E. Green, the School Inspector and former Methodist Missionary to the North Coast, initiated an investigation which resulted in the Principal’s immediate resignation.
Elizabeth Shaw died in the Brockville Asylum in 1917.
The process of reconciliation requires us to gain more than a superficial understanding of the genocide that was committed against the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island. It requires ongoing learning, and unlearning. In an effort to contribute to that education process, I have made The Awakening of Elizabeth Shaw available on YouTube for anyone to watch or share.
I also invite you to sign parliamentary petition e-3484, which closes for signatures on October 1st, 2021.
e-3484 Petition to the Government of Canada
Thank you for signing and sharing this official parliamentary petition. To register your signature on the petition you must click the link in the confirmation email you receive.
Indigenous communities across Canada are mourning the discovery of over 200 unmarked graves of Indigenous children at the site of the former Kamloops Residential School;
It is a well-known fact throughout Indigenous communities that many children who never returned home from residential schools are buried on the former properties, which this discovery further solidifies and documents;
Indigenous leaders believe that further unmarked graves exist at the sites of all former residential schools in Canada, which can no longer be ignored;
The residential school system is not only a dark chapter in Canadian history, but it continues to have repercussions on its victims, their descendants, and on society as a whole;
Indigenous communities deserve to know what happened to their missing children; and
If only 1 out of 139 former residential school properties contained over 200 bodies, we can only begin to imagine how many thousands of Indigenous children are buried throughout all of Canada, and every child matters.
We, the undersigned, citizens or residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to act immediately by:
Paying for the cost of ground-penetrating radar to investigate all former residential school properties, with the expectation that additional Indigenous children in unmarked graves may be properly identified and laid to rest;
Releasing all documents related to deaths and burial grounds at all residential schools, and compelling the churches and other levels of governments to do the same; and
Securing the grounds of all residential schools, until proper searches for burial sites can be conducted.