01 Jun AFN Yukon Regional Chief Kluane Adamek’s Statement on the Discovery of the Remains of 215 Indigenous Children at Kamloops Indian Residential School
Whitehorse, Yukon – The AFN Yukon Region stands in solidarity with those mourning the 215 children who were discovered late last week at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
“I have been reflecting the loss of 215 young souls whose bodies have been discovered at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, and I weep for Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir, all the people of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, and all the families and nations that have been directly impacted.
When I placed a pair of shoes at the Sacred Hall Cathedral in Whitehorse on Sunday, I met a 7-year-old girl who was there to do the same. 215 children, just like her, had their futures stolen. Today, these children, who were as young as 3 years old, would have been Elders in their communities. They would have been our teachers and the keepers of our languages. They would have had multiple generations of their own children. Instead, their bodies are only now being discovered and brought home.
The magnitude of this tragedy is unspeakable, and it’s impossible not to think about the thousands of other children who are still lost.
I join many others in the Yukon and across the country in wearing orange. Today, Yukoners walk together in solidarity with all of those impacted by the discovery of the children in Kamloops, as well as the souls of children who have not yet been found and brought home. We will be burning candles, singing our songs in prayer circles, and lighting sacred fires. We do each of these things to acknowledge, honour and affirm that every child matters. We must remember the past and hold it close to our hearts, and we must now blaze a better path forward today and every day after it.
The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has issued rulings to compensate the children and families who are victims of Canada’s systemic racism and to ensure non-status First Nations children off-reserve have access to their rights through Jordan’s Principle. But while the flags are at half-mast on Parliament Hill, our government continues to spend millions of dollars fighting these decisions. Either our children matter, or they do not. The Crown cannot have it both ways.
I want to acknowledge the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Because of their dedication and work, we know that the Kamloops Residential School is not the only place where Indigenous children went missing and never returned home. The Missing Children’s Project has already identified more than 4,100 of our children who died at residential schools and we know that there are still many more we don’t know about.
The AFN Yukon Region supports those nations who are calling for immediate steps to bring lost children to their proper resting place. For some, this may mean the provision of similar ground-penetrating radar technology that was instrumental in discovering those 215 children in Kamloops. For others, the process of bringing children home in the right way may look different. It is important to honour the rights and responsibilities that each community has to their own children and people, and the AFN Yukon Region remains committed to holding all levels of government accountable for respecting those community rights and responsibilities.
This fight must go beyond the circles of Indigenous people and Indigenous leaders. It is the responsibility of all human beings, anyone who has ever held a child in their arms, and anyone who believes that we all have an equal right to a safe and secure future.
I will continue to fight for recognition and for justice. I will hold Canada accountable for the atrocities of the past, and for those that continue to this day.
Finally, I ask each and every Canadian to reflect on this question: What more can you do?”
Assembly of First Nations – Yukon Region