The National Residential School Crisis Line offers emotional support and crisis referral services for residential school Survivors and their families. Call the toll-free Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419. This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Canada's House of Commons has unanimously passed a motion in favour of having the federal government recognize that its residential schools were an act of genocide.
The news has sparked encouragement from across the country, but also calls to action across social media to hold those accountable for the acts that have harmed Indigenous peoples, such as former prime ministers Jean Chrétien and the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Others, such as PPC Leader Maxime Bernier, are also questioning the use of the word "genocide," as they downplay the atrocities that took place at residential schools between the 1870s to the closure of the final state-run establishment in 1996.
According to the United Nations, genocide is the "intent to destroy in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group."
As of October 2022, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation's student memorial register has 4,126 children that are listed, with the number of fatalities expected to increase with research efforts underway. A 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission report concluded that schools performed "cultural genocide" through acts of sexual and physical abuse, in addition to malnutrition and poor living conditions.
The latest motion in the House of Commons was introduced by Leah Gazan, the NDP member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre. A similar motion was put forward in June 2021, but did not receive unanimous consent. The news Thursday comes after Pope Francis described the acts at residential schools as a genocide, following his trip to Canada in the summer.
"Today I lift up survivors, families, and communities who have sacrificed so much in order for people across Canada to know the truth; that what happened in residential schools was a genocide. I’m grateful to parliamentarians who unanimously passed my motion recognizing the truth of Canada’s history,” said Gazan in a statement.
“I look forward to working with the government to ensure the will of Parliament is honoured by formally recognizing residential schools as a genocide. Survivors deserve no less."
The passing of the motion is being applauded as a critical step, one of many that's been in the spotlight ever since hundreds of unmarked graves of Indigenous children were discovered across Canada in the summer of 2021.
.@LeahGazan is a force and a real one whose politics cannot be matched. This is an incredible thing she did by forcing this country to recognize its genocidal past and present against Indigenous peoples. Everyone should be talking about this #cdnpoli https://t.co/6KJhgrLX4U
— Red Velvet Cake (@wickdchiq) October 28, 2022
Residential schools were genocide. Our people as survivors have always known this. Have always said this. Have always called for this. It has been long overdue that this be fully recognized and articulated. #Genocide #ResidentialSchools #StolenAncestors https://t.co/2qaixJUv4f
— Si Sityaawks (@SiSityaawks) October 28, 2022
So grateful for @LeahGazan and her perseverance. We have fought against deniers for so long. That is why this is profoundly important. A show of unity. 3 years ago the national press corps ripped Justice Marion Buller apart for saying the MMIWG crisis is a “genocide.” https://t.co/gnDyVu8wyW
— Tanya Talaga (@TanyaTalaga) October 28, 2022
With Canada's shameful history toward Indigenous peoples, many are calling for more actions to be taken. In the future, some believe that in turn "genocide" should be pluralized, because of the dozens of unique Indigenous populations that were stripped of their cultures.
The news has also sparked questioning as to how Canada will take steps forward in distancing itself from those who were responsible for the neglect of Indigenous populations. For example with then Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Jean Chrétien and Prime Minister Trudeau, who in 1969, introduced The White Paper.
The White Paper drew backlash, after it proposed to abolish legal documents relating to Indigenous peoples in Canada, such as the Indian Act, while looking to eliminate treaties, as well as fully assimilate all “Indians” into the Canadian state. While the White Paper was ultimately withdrawn in 1970, residential schools continued in Canada until 1996.
So Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Jean Chretien are guilty of genocide huh?
— JayBlake (@punishedMTL) October 28, 2022
Then Pierre Trudeau, Jean Chretien among others willingly participated in genocide. When will be Chretien arrested and Montreal's airport name changed? It must be done soon.
— no more bull (@more_bull) October 28, 2022
— DoctorTongue (@doctor_tongue) October 28, 2022
How unserious is Canada? Parliamentarians think they can casually label government policies genocide then do nothing to hold those responsible to account because, let's be honest, it's only for show. Canada is *that* unserious. https://t.co/cLH0qGr2fc
— Dan Gardner (@dgardner) October 28, 2022
Pierre Trudeau engaged in Genocide! Remove his name from Airports and schools. Tear down his statues!
— John Doer - He-man / Him-man (@1947xxx) October 28, 2022