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In Recognition of National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day

The Indigenous Education and Action Committee of the Newfoundland and Labrador Law Society works to promote reconciliation within Canada and more specifically within the province. As a part of that process, the IEAC advocates for the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action in its work.

June is National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day is celebrated every June 21, with the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Proclamation of the day taking place this year. The day was created to commemorate the contributions that Inuit, First Nations and Metis people made and continue to make to Canadian society and to recognize the diverse, rich cultures of the Indigenous peoples of Canada, including the Inuit, Innu and Mi’kmaq and other Indigenous Peoples within Newfoundland and Labrador.

With the recent announcement from the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, that a preliminary survey of the grounds at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School uncovered the remains of 215 children buried at the site, this year provides a compelling opportunity to reflect upon intergenerational effects of colonization, including residential schools, and other oppressive policies aimed at the assimilation or elimination of Indigenous peoples, but so too, upon the resiliency and strength of Indigenous Peoples across this country known as Canada. For over a century, the central goal of Canada’s Indigenous policy was assimilation, with the establishment and operation of residential schools a fundamental element of this policy. The policy didn’t work. Despite it, Indigenous peoples are still here, contributing to society and revitalizing their communities, their languages, and their customs, practices and traditions. However, there is much work to do. For example, the TRC said a large number of Indigenous children who were sent to residential schools never returned home, and it made six recommendations regarding missing children and burial grounds.

The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement negotiated in 2006 had five components, including the creation of the TRC; however, Indigenous peoples who attended residential schools in Newfoundland and Labrador were excluded from the Agreement. Five class actions were brought by former students from NL and in 2016 a court-approved Settlement was approved. In addition to a Settlement Fund, Canada agreed to fund initiatives to commemorate the history of schools. Community Healing and Commemoration Sessions were designed for former students to tell their stories of their residential school experiences.

The Healing and Commemoration Collection was launched on The Rooms website in September 2020. Adding their voices to the National conversation on Truth and Reconciliation, former students of NL residential schools can have their stories heard. The IEAC urges all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to educate themselves and others about the history of Indigenous peoples within the province, including the history of residential schools. There is a direct trajectory from historical harms to the present-day barriers the Innu, Inuit and Mi’kmaq and other Indigenous

Peoples face every day in this province. Let us take the recent outpouring of collective grief and shame about the human rights violations that occurred against Indigenous children and families as the impetus to do better and uphold and respect the rights of the Mi’kmaq, Innu and Inuit at every level of government. In this regard, the IEAC supports the continual implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action within the Newfoundland and Labrador Bar and the ongoing work of implementing the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and LGBTQ National Inquiry Calls for Justice.