By Letter to the Editor on June 11, 2021.
In the news has been the disclosure of 215 graves of Indigenous children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. There have been several presentations at public forums with regard to the deep loss, suffering and trauma inflicted onto our Native peoples. In response to the findings, actions have been initiated to try to identify the bodies, determine if there are more at residential schools across the country and compensate living victims impacted by the haunting experiences at those schools. There has also been some attempts to mitigate the impact, some officials saying the graves could be over a century old, that identifications may be impossible because many records have been lost, incomplete or ambiguous, and that “it is not new to find graves at residential schools.”
True, this is nothing new. The sexual and physical assaults, beatings, starvation, poor sanitation, lack of ventilation or heating, and lack of medical care has been known for a long time. Of the estimated 150,000 children that went through the system, it’s estimated 4-6,000 died from the conditions. One residential school had a loss of 69% of its students due to tuberculosis and influenza. More may have died later from alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, suicides and violence as a result of lasting memories.
With the outpouring of sympathy and condolences from the public and officials, I haven’t noticed any effort to address “the elephant in the room.” In the Criminal Code of Canada, “Culpable homicide is murder when the person who causes the death of a human being (i) means to cause their death, (ii) means to cause them bodily harm that they knew is likely to cause their death and is reckless whether death ensues or not” (Section 229). “Murder is first degree murder when it is planned and deliberate” (Section 231), and “Everyone who is an accessory after the fact to murder is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for life” (Section 240).
Indigenous children had been murdered, and administrators, teachers and officials either committed these acts or were accessories after the fact. We know who these were. They should be found, held accountable and sentenced. And when it comes to identifying and punishing the accessories, this should include federal department employees, managers, ministers and Prime Ministers that either knew that these atrocities were occurring or should have, and should have done something to stop this.
John W. Cherwonogrodzky