CUPE 3912 mourns discovery of Kamloops mass grave site, calls for stronger federal action

CUPE, including CUPE 3192, mourns discovery of Kamloops mass grave site. We call for stronger federal action.

CUPE 3912 stands in solidarity with Indigenous communities across Canada as they mourn the recent discovery of 215 Indigenous children buried at a mass grave site at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in BC.

You can read CUPE National’s full statement here.

You can read the statement of the Office of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation Chief, here. The school operated on the unceded territory of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation until 1978.

As Dorene Bernard, a Mi’kmaq elder and scholar, states other residential school locations need to “be fully investigated …. We’re going to continue to do the work.” Under her guidance, the survey of the Shubenacadie Residential School location in Nova Scotia has already begun. The Shubenacadie school operated from 1929-1967, and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation lists the names of 16 children who died at the school.

Donations can be made to the Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society here.

To Indigenous CUPE members: we can only imagine the pain and trauma this news has caused, or reawakened. If you need help, the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419.

As academic workers in settler institutions, we have benefitted from settler colonialism. The institutions where our members work — Mount Saint Vincent, Saint Mary’s, and Dalhousie universities — are in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people. We are all treaty people, and must all be committed to working with Indigenous nations, communities, organizations, and students toward decolonization, reconciliation, and respecting the on-going treaty relationships. This also means reflecting on our own work and positions, and having hard conversations about how academic institutions and disciplines contributed to the collective history and traumas of colonialism. Decolonizing our work and practices requires ongoing and day-to-day action.

In the words of Jared Qwustenuxun Williams, “Every day is orange shirt day, every day is red dress day, every day indigenous lives matter.” You can read more about the Orange Shirt Day Campaign here.

To learn more about the ongoing legacies of colonialism read the resources provided by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Volume 4, on “Missing Children and Unmarked Burials” is particularly relevant.

We urge the federal government to immediately end its court battle against First Nations children, which it has been pursuing since the Canada Human Rights Tribunal first ruled against the government in 2016. Provincial and federal governments must also implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.