On behalf of the BCFED
On Thursday, July 8th President of the BC Federation of Labour Laird Cronk sent a letter to put pressure on Prime Minister Trudeau, Premier John Horgan, as well as federal and provincial ministers regarding the TRC Calls To Action:
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau, Federal Ministers Bennett, Miller, Lametti, and Tassi; Premier Horgan and BC Ministers Eby and Rankin:
Re: TRC Calls to Action
We write to you today on behalf of the BC Federation of Labour (BCFED) which represents over 500,000 working people in the province of British Columbia through its affiliated unions. We write in the wake of the uncovering in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, Sioux Valley Dakota and Muskowekwan territories over the past weeks of unmarked children’s graves at the sites of multiple residential schools.
It has been over five years since the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada were published, and over five years since you promised to take immediate action to implement them all.
We are calling upon you to uphold that commitment and to fully implement all the TRC Calls to Action, and to pay special attention to the Calls to Action that deal with missing children, justice and health.
There were over 130 government-operated residential schools, all of which need to be fully investigated for remains in culturally appropriate ways. This work must be led by Indigenous communities and fully resourced and funded by the federal government. It is expected that thousands of unmarked graves exist across Canada of Indigenous children who died at residential schools. Families who never saw their children return home experience never-ending grief and continue to live with deep scars.
The BCFED is deeply concerned by the federal government’s inaction on identifying and returning the remains of stolen children, as recounted by TRC Commissioner and Chair, the Honourable Murray Sinclair:
“We asked the government to allow us to conduct a fuller inquiry to that part of the work of the TRC, to explore that on behalf of the survivors and Canadian public. We submitted a proposal, as it was not within the mandate of the TRC, and that request was denied. So largely we did what we could, but it was not anywhere near what we needed to investigate. Now we are seeing evidence of the large number of children who died.”
In the wake of the evidence coming to light on multiple sites of residential schools across the country, we urge you to do right by the memory of the children, and their families.
As such, there are a number of pressing priorities that require urgent action. We call upon you and your government to stop fighting residential school survivors in court, as per TRC Call to Action 29. Canadian Human Rights Tribunal’s ruling, which was an expansion of the 2017 ruling, found that the federal government is willfully and recklessly discriminating against First Nations children in ways that contributed to child deaths and a multitude of unnecessary family separations. The Tribunal ordered Canada to pay $40,000 to each victim of its discriminatory conduct, dating back to 2006. We publicly acknowledge that despite your own repeated assertions that you allowed your government to file a judicial review to “quash all financial compensation” on October 4, 2019.
In addition, we also call upon you to stop blocking the creation of statistical reports on residential school abuse claims and the direct transfer of all other records to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
We call upon you to immediately implement the Spirit Bear Plan of the First Nations Family and Caring Society, led by Cindy Blackstock, to end inequalities in public services for First Nations children, youth and families. We also call upon you to provide adequate and sustainable mental health and addictions services to Indigenous peoples on and off reserve in both rural and urban areas.
We call upon you to immediately solve the lack of clean drinking water for First Nations and implement United Nations General Assembly Resolution 64/292 which explicitly recognizes access to safe drinking water and sanitation as a human right and has been endorsed by Canada.
And finally, we call upon you to legislate full adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, particularly the requirement for free, prior and informed consent when making decisions that impact Indigenous rights, with full support and collaboration from Indigenous Peoples.
The moral imperative for action is clear. We look forward to seeing imminent progress.
LAIRD CRONK SUSSANNE SKIDMORE