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  • Wendalynn Wordsmith

Every Child Matters

Updated: Jul 1, 2021

I would like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which I write this post is Treaty 6 territory, the traditional territory of Cree Peoples, and the homeland of the Métis.

Over the past month, many unmarked graves were found on sites of former Indian Residential Schools (IRS). Today I am not going into details regarding the history of residential schools, as I cannot voice myself as an expert, but I ask for you to check out the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This link gives a list of resources to familiarise yourself with the atrocities committed by the Canadian government and religious groups across Canada.

Nation Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

The CBC also has a great link.

Your questions answered about Canada's residential school system

I am doing my annual Canada Day post, which has come at a time when the country is coming to terms with 215 unmarked graves found at the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in British Columbia, 751 unmarked graves found at The Cowessess First Nation, Saskatchewan and just yesterday, 30 June 2021, 182 unmarked graves were officially declared near ʔaq̓am, one of the communities that are part of the Ktunaxa Nation, also in BC. Most burial sites on residential school sites are known, yet no official plans were put into place to find them until recently. There will be more found, we know this and we need to accept it. We need acknowledgement from our governments and religious leaders.

A movement has been going around the country to #CancelCanadaDay. I cancelled Canada Day before the call went out, around 2007. This year my husband Richard and I have chosen to do so officially. We had hoped to adorn our veranda with #EveryChildMatters tee-shirts bought from Awasis Boutique, but most of the stock is sold out. What we can do is financially support Indigenous businesses and residential school support services. That is what Richard and I have done and will continue to do. If you are able to do so, please support your local Indigenous business, whether it is to purchase an orange tee-shirt or to support a charitable organisation in your area.

At first, I thought I was not physically capable of writing this, then I realised I was not mentally prepared. As noted before, I started a positive and kindness-driven focus on my writing and my various social media accounts. The discoveries of children, young people and adults brought me back to reality. In an extreme case of doom scrolling, I unblocked my dad on Facebook and discovered he made no mention of the residential school findings but posted a badly Photoshopped military-themed meme trying to make people guilty of wanting to cancel Canada Day. I have a sneaking suspicion some of the photos used are American service members, but I am not wasting my time to look. I will not give him the credit. I refuse to dive into my dad's narrative, so I will stop here.

He lives in a town called Indian Head for God's sake! There is so much I can say about that, but I will not.

This year is exceptionally hard for us. As white people, we cannot expect Indigenous peoples to accept our apologies for the treatment they endured, but we can show our support through awareness and acknowledgement. Some have asked for white people to stop seeking atonement and absolution. I see those sentiments and agree. For those who do that, they are sincere, I do not doubt, but like most privileged white people, they also kidnap the conversation and make it all about them. I refuse to do that. This is not about me.

I will not stop declaring my space a #CanadaDayFreeZone. I choose to #CancelCanadaDay due to the #SystemicRacism I grew up with and the #CanConQ rhetoric stemming from various communities deciding to cancel, or postone, Canada Day celebrations. I refuse to share these tropes. I refuse to feel quilty for standing up for the Indigenous people who suffered and continue to deal with the effects of attending residential schools. These are the places in Saskatchewan changing their focus on Canada Day:

The list of Sask. communities cancelling, postponing Canada Day continues to grow (©2021 CBC/Radio-Canada. All rights reserved.)

There are also two people (that I know of) refusing to celebrate in #Waldheim, but choose to contimplate and reflect on those who were lost to assimilation.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for residential school survivors and others affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

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