Walpole Island First Nation is calling for action amid the heartbreak of a mass grave discovered at a former residential school in Kamloops, BC.
In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres, Chief Charles Sampson said his community is demanding an investigation into the past Indian policy by the Canadian Government and the churches, adding that they should be accountable for their actions in an international court of law.
Chief Sampson also wants all children who attended residential schools across Canada accounted for and those who went missing to be identified and given proper ceremonial burials.
Walpole Island First Nation is also demanding that all history books and teaching materials be rewritten to expose the truth of how the Anishnebek and their children were treated in the residential school system, adding that the reasoning must be accurately explained.
"Walpole Island First Nation is extremely heartbroken to hear about the 215 children discovered in a mass grave at the Kamloops Indian Residential School," said Chief Sampson. "Our hearts and our prayers go out to the families. We pray that you will have peace and healing."
Children's shoes are on display at the residential school monument on Walpole Island to honour the children and flags have also been lowered.
"We know there are many other lost children at other residential school sites across this land. We know that they suffered much pain, horror and abuse and now we can openly grieve with those broken families who could not welcome home the return of their little ones," the chief added. "The hurt we feel is indescribable. We must find justice for them. We must ask ourselves, where is justice for the Anishnebek and all our brothers and sisters in the 'Just Society'?"
The Anishnebek of Walpole Island First Nation is also asking for a National Day of Mourning and a shutdown of all business activity to honour and to demonstrate their "deep sense of sorrow" for the lost children.
"It is time for the Peoples of Turtle Island to stand together and denounce these horrific findings. We are with you Tk'emlups te Secwépemc First Nation," Chief Sampson noted.
Kamloops Residential School Memorial. Photo via Erin O'Toole. May 31, 2021.
Kettle Point Memorial to honour children in Kamloops mass grave. Photo via MP Lianne Rood. May 31, 2021.
Chatham-Kent Leamington MP Dave Epp said he is saddened by the horrific discovery of the remains.
"Like our leader, I am deeply saddened by the discovery of 215 Indigenous children in an unmarked grave in Kamloops," said Epp. "My thoughts are with the families, friends, and communities affected by this terrible discovery."
Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MP Lianne Rood said the mass grave is truly heartbreaking.
"To honour these children and their families, I visited the memorial in Kettle and Stony Point and placed a pair of shoes in their memory," said Rood. "As we continue reflecting on the significance of this discovery, I hope that we take the shared raw emotions from this horrific discovery and use it to build bridges with the Indigenous community in the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation."