A Statement by NWAC President Lorraine Whitman
May 31, 2021
OTTAWA – It was with heavy hearts that the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) and its members, the grassroots First Nations, Métis, and Inuit women in this country, learned that the bodies of at least 215 children had been found using ground-penetrating radar on the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
These are 215 innocent young lives that were ended before they had the chance to begin. These are cherished children who left behind hundreds of grieving family members, many of whom likely had no idea that their beloved young sons or daughters had died.
We are both saddened and horrified by this discovery and we mourn the loss of these lives with our tears and our prayers. But I cannot say we are surprised. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which spent years investigating the tragedy of the residential schools, told us there were victims who had yet to be found.
We strongly suspect more will be revealed in the coming years and months as Indigenous people press for answers about what happened to the children who were taken, often against the wishes of their parents, into this system that was created for the expressed purpose of assimilation.
That is why I am calling today for the grounds of every residential school in Canada to be searched in this manner. That much is owed to the families whose children went off to these institutions and did not return.
In addition, I am joining other leaders of National Indigenous Organizations in demanding that a full inquiry be held to determine what happened at Kamloops. How did these children die? Why did the school have records of just 50 deaths when there were more than 200? Why were these horrors allowed to be covered up, and who is responsible for these atrocities?
The families deserve answers. First Nations, Métis and Inuit people deserve answers. Canadians deserve answers. And these children, who were denied the right to live their full lives, deserve the justice that will begin to happen only when all of the facts about their deaths are made public.