As an organization that advocates for quality systems of early learning and child care, it is our duty to reflect, consider, and respond to the recent discovery of the unmarked mass grave at a former Kamloops, BC residential school. The 215 Indigenous children, some as young as three, who were buried, were forcibly taken from their families and communities and subjected to horrific violence and other unthinkable mistreatment. We know that these 215 children are not the only victims. The last residential school closed in 1996, but the violent legacy of the schools continues to this day. We are still a long way from truth and from reconciliation. Indigenous children are overrepresented in Canada’s foster care system. They experience higher rates of poverty, food insecurity, and inadequate housing. “Removed from their families and home communities, seven generations of Aboriginal children were denied their identity through a systematic and concerted effort to extinguish their culture, language, and spirit,” wrote Justice Murray Sinclair in Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.
We offer our condolences to the families and communities whose children were taken from them. We will actively support the implementation of the Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework Agreement. We join others in answering the Calls for Justice, issued by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, including the call on governments to develop culturally appropriate early childhood education programs for Indigenous families. Statements are not enough. We must and we will act every day to decolonize Canada.