The uncovering of the remains of 215 children who were murdered at the Kamloops Residential School is tragic and shocking, but not a surprise. Stories of children burying children and secret graves have already been shared many times before – in families, in communities, and publicly at the Truth & Reconciliation Commission.
But the stories weren't enough. Many of us needed “proof”. We couldn't simply believe survivors.
With the uncovering of the children's graves, do we finally have the proof we need to move to action?
Do we need to hear anything more before we will change our practices, to ensure that we do no more harm?
What can we do right now, today, to bring truth to light?
These are some of the questions that we are grappling with at the Foundation as we strive to decolonize our practices and work towards reconciliation. The Partners in Reciprocity Fellowship through The Circle on Philanthropy is supporting our efforts in this area and we are grateful for the opportunity to learn and unlearn.
This week, members of the Two Row Understanding Service Team, a team dedicated to serving First Nations, Inuit, and Metis children, youth and families who are in contact with the child welfare system, shared their thoughts with us about truth. With their permission, we would like to share them with you:
"Today, 52% of children in the foster care system in Canada are Indigenous. This is the Truth!
Today, we mourn the loss of 215 murdered children at the Kamloops residential school and we grieve with 430 parents, 860 grandparents and countless aunties, uncles, friends and relatives. This is the Truth!
Today, over 200 Indigenous children remain out of parent care as the result of interventions by our agency; 420 parents, 840 grandparents and countless aunties, uncles, friends and relatives will forever be impacted. This is the Truth!
Today, we come to work despite the pain, frustration, anger - and despite the barriers and resistance we face on a daily basis. We do so in an effort to disrupt the shameful policies and practices that continue to steal and separate Indigenous children from their family and communities. We will not, and cannot not stay silent in the face of attempted genocide.
We as an agency need to acknowledge these truths, accept these truths and be accountable for these truths before we can move forward with Reconciliation."
We, the Foundation, also have to acknowledge these truths because otherwise, there can be no reconciliation.
Here's what we commit to doing right now, to move from listening to action:
- Direct donors to give to grassroots Indigenous-led organizations in Waterloo Region and continue to provide support for collaborative work through our Truth & Reconciliation Fund.
- Ensure that the language we use in our communication does not hide the truth, no matter how upsetting or uncomfortable the truth may be.
Prepare to become a signatory to The Philanthropic Community's Declaration of Action, a commitment that would have us use the Foundation's philanthropic resources in service to Reconciliation.
We know we have more work to do and that this is just the beginning.
We stand in solidarity with our Indigenous colleagues, partners, and the community as we work for change, for justice, and for truth.