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The history of Canada’s past involving its Indigenous treaty partners is only now beginning to be recognized as a genocidal action. It crippled the nations of people who were here long before French and British colonial feet touched down on Turtle Island.
Discovering 215 unmarked, unrecorded children graves at one of the largest residential school sites in British Columbia has reopened wounds across the nation. Indigenous families have buried stories and scabbed-over wounds torn open by this confirmation of something long known.
While these bodies were found in British Columbia, it is doubtless a story told by every residential school, if we could see below the turf where children stolen from their homes and families came to be “civilized.” Children left home and never returned.
Restorative Justice is an Indigenous concept, modeled after Indigenous healing circles. This powerful medicine recognizes that retribution and punishment does little to heal the perpetrator of harm, and wounds the victim even further by allowing feelings of vengeance to take precedence over healing. All voices are heard in restorative justice.
We can hear the voices of our treaty partners as they cry in pain. We mourn with you. We are not our ancestors and we may not be responsible for their actions, but we are here and we are responsible for what we do now. And what we want to do now is help with the healing.
A National Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. Emotional and crisis referral services can be accessed by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.
Photo by UVic.