Residential School Children Memorial
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Statement on the Unmarked Graves Found by Cowessess First Nation

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Trigger warning: This statement includes references to residential schools and violence against children.

YWCA Metro Vancouver is deeply saddened to learn that more unmarked graves have been located on the site of a former Indian Residential School. Yesterday, the Cowessess First Nation released information that an estimated 751 unmarked graves have been identified on the grounds of the former Marieval Indian Residential School on Treaty Four Territory in Saskatchewan. We join the Cowessess community, survivors and others whose family members were sent to this institution in their grief, and we recognize and honour the lives lost.

This news comes less than a month after the discovery of the 215 unmarked burial sites at Kamloops Residential School in Kamloops, BC. To date, the remains of over 1,000 Indigenous people have been found on the grounds of former residential schools across Canada, with more expected to be discovered.

It is another sickening example of the damaging and lasting impacts of the Canadian Residential School system that was inflicted on Indigenous peoples. The legacies of this racist and genocidal system continue to be felt among individuals, families and communities.

We stand with Residential School survivors, individuals, families, colleagues and groups dedicated to demanding justice and transformative change. The YWCA calls on the federal government to immediately make meaningful progress toward implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action aimed at redressing the legacy of Residential Schools and advancing reconciliation in Canada. We also call on municipal, provincial and federal governments to implement the 231 Calls for Justice from the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Final Report.

On Canada Day (July 1), we also urge our communities to reflect on Canada’s colonial history and the injustices that were, and continue to be, inflicted upon Indigenous people.

YWCA Metro Vancouver has made a donation to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society. We hope all those impacted by this tragedy will seek support:

The KUU-US Crisis Line Society provides a First Nations and Indigenous-specific crisis line available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, toll-free from anywhere in British Columbia. The KUU-US Crisis Line can be reached toll-free at 1 800 588-8717. Alternatively, call direct into the Youth Line at 250 723-2040 or the Adult Line at 250 723-4050, or online: kuu-uscrisisline.com.

The Indian Residential School Survivors Society - British Columbia has opened their telephone support line for anyone requiring emotional assistance. Call toll-free at 1-800-721-0066. 

A National Indian Residential School Crisis Line has also been set up to provide support for former Residential School students and those affected. Access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1 866 925-4419.