Unions join Indigenous groups in demanding search for graves at other former residential school sites

“We cannot let this moment pass without meaningful action.”

EDMONTON - Alberta unions are supporting Indigenous leaders and advocates in demanding a thorough search for graves at other former residential school sites, including those located in Alberta.

The Alberta Federation of Labour is also calling for a National Day of Mourning to remember the victims of the residential school system; removal of the names of the architects of the system from schools and public buildings; and an inquiry into the current child welfare system, which continues to separate Indigenous children from their families and their culture.

“What happened in those facilities was nothing short of cultural genocide,” says AFL president Gil McGowan. “We need to face what happened in our past and what is continuing to happen today. We can start by acknowledging that Kamloops was not an isolated case. There’s no doubt that there are many other graves, including here in Alberta. We need to find these kids and treat them with the dignity they were denied in life.”

McGowan says these were not schools, but rather institutions explicitly designed to separate Indigenous children from their families, their communities, their language and their culture. McGowan points to the words used by the architects of the systems themselves to describe what they were doing.

Bishop Vital Grandin, whose name adorns many schools and public buildings in the province, said the following in 1875: “We instill in them a pronounced distaste for the native life so that they will be humiliated when reminded of their origin. When they graduate from our institutions, the children have lost everything Native except their blood.”

“People like Grandin created an evil, barbaric and genocidal system; and they inflicted an unspeakable trauma on our Indigenous sisters and brothers – a trauma that echoes down the generations,” says McGowan. “The community of white settler Canadians has an obligation to look at the horror that their ancestors created and respond to it. We can and must start by finding and honoring the lost children; tearing down the names of the perpetrators from the walls of our public buildings; creating a national day of mourning and remembrance; and perhaps most importantly, stopping the on-going practice of separating Indigenous kids from their families, communities and cultures.”

McGowan concluded by saying “the discovery of the mass grave in Kamloops has shaken our country to the core. We cannot let this moment pass without taking meaningful action.”


Ramona Franson
Director of Communications, AFL
[email protected]

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  • Leah Hall
    published this page in News 2021-05-31 14:18:36 -0600