Cape Breton Post
Canadians must dig deep
The news out of Saskatchewan on Thursday was saddening and troubling — 751 unmarked graves near a former residential school.
This discovery comes weeks after the remains of 215 children were found at the site of another former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
The Saskatchewan graves were located using ground-penetrating radar at the Cowessess First Nation.
Now, the painful process of trying to identify the remains begins. Sadly, these efforts could take a long time.
“It’s going to hurt in the coming months because the more we put names to them, the more that it is going to reopen some of the pains that many endured at the Marieval Residential School,” Chief Cadmus Delorme said during a virtual news conference.
DEVASTATION AND GRIEF
It is impossible to know the devastation and grief felt by his people and how the process of identifying the remains will affect them. It is also difficult to know how to help or react. Delorme’s request was a simple one.
“We are not asking for pity, but we are asking for understanding,” he said. “We need time to heal, and this country must stand by us.”
As shamed Canadians do that, they must brace for other such discoveries.
After the remains were found in Kamloops, Justice Murray Sinclair, former senator and chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, estimated there could be 15,000 or 20,000 Indigenous children in unmarked graves across the country. We are at the beginning of a painful point for non-indigenous Canadians — a pain long felt by First Nations. It must also be a turning point. Canadians have been hearing about reconciliation for several years, but with these discoveries — and what they say about how Indigenous people and cultures were treated — the people of this country must be active participants in that process.
That means coming to terms with the injustices of the past, as painful as it is to acknowledge and reconcile what’s been described as cultural genocide.
EDUCATION, RESPECT AND PARTNERING
It also means learning the history of Indigenous people, respecting their cultures and rights, and partnering with them to build a better country that supports self-governance.
Becoming familiar with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s reports, findings and calls to action is a good first step down this path. The commission’s work provides a better understanding and appreciation of the past and outlines several measures that need to happen. You can find this work at trc.ca.
Reconciling will take a lot of heavy lifting and deep thinking, more for some than others. Much of the effort will be challenging. All of it will be enlightening. But this simply must happen or there will forever be a chasm between this country and its Indigenous people. Future generations deserve better — a lot better than we’ve done in the past.
“We asking are for not
pity, but we
are asking for
We need time to
heal, and this
stand by us.” Chief Cadmus Delorme