The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The government House leader has informed me that he has a point of order.
Hon. Paul Calandra: Mr. Speaker, I think if you seek it, you will find unanimous consent to allow the member for Kiiwetinoong to speak for 10 minutes with respect to his feelings and the feelings of all First Nations in the province of Ontario following the horrific discovery in British Columbia.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The Government House leader is seeking the unanimous consent of the House to allow the member for Kiiwetinoong to speak for 10 minutes. Agreed? Agreed.
I recognize the member for Kiiwetinoong.
Mr. Sol Mamakwa: Meegwetch, Speaker. I rise today to acknowledge and honour the 215 children who did not return home from the Kamloops Indian Residential School. I acknowledge the communities of the First Nations in British Columbia who these children belonged to, and across the country, across Canada, those who have felt the pain of this loss. We are united in grief.
Indigenous people across the country are hurting. We are in pain, remembering all those we have lost and the destruction that residential schools have left behind.
The discovery of those precious 215 lost children, our children, has shown us again the overwhelming amount of work to be done to ensure justice, dignity and equity for our people. Speaker, the death of our children is a crime against humanity, but Canada has never treated it as such. The country must own up to its past, as must all its governments and institutions, for its role in the horror it created in residential schools.
The first Prime Minister, John A. Macdonald, told the House of Commons in 1883:
“When the school is on the reserve the child lives with its parents, who are savages; he is surrounded by savages, and though he may learn to read and write his habits, and training and mode of thought are Indian. He is simply a savage who can read and write.
“It has been strongly pressed on myself, as the head of the department, that the Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men.”
People often call Indian residential schools a dark chapter in Canada’s history, but for many of us who are affected by this directly, we know that chapter never ended for our grandparents and for those other members of our families who were sent to residential schools. We continue to collectively feel that hurt that was experienced by our relatives in those schools.
Speaker, all Indigenous peoples living today in Canada are survivors of Canada’s tools of genocide. We are survivors of residential schools. We are survivors of the Indian Act. We are survivors of the Sixties Scoop and survivors of the ongoing systemic racism which attempts to erase us. But we are still here.
Today, I’m calling on Ontario and the Canadian government to work with all First Nations at the sites of the schools and look for our lost children. It is a great open secret that our children lie on these properties of former schools, an open secret that Canadians can no longer look away from. In keeping with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Missing Children Project, every school site must be searched for the graves of our ancestors. Canada must also demand apologies from those who helped commit these heinous crimes. Pope Francis, the Catholic church and all other churches involved must own up to their part in this genocide, apologize and offer reparations to survivors and families of those lost. Finally, we must remember that Canada’s governments, at every level, including ours, have roles to play, responsibilities and treaty obligations.
Speaker, it’s still hard to be an Indigenous child. As I speak today, thousands of Indigenous children are without proper schools, clean water, adequate food, a safe home to live in, or good health care. Many cannot attend high school in their own communities and they are too often in the child welfare and justice systems. We can no longer throw up our hands and say, “There’s nothing we can do.” We must act together to resolve this so no more children go without.
Today, I am calling on the government of Ontario to keep the flags lowered at all provincial buildings to half mast for four days to honour the 215 children. I am also calling on the government of Ontario to institute an annual day of mourning and remembrance for those we lost to residential schools and for survivors. Let this be a first step towards an honest reckoning with the past by Ontario, by Canada and all the people who call this land home.
While we respect the lowering of flags and other demonstrations as a means of showing support for the 215 children who died at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, there is so much more work that must be done to honour the survivors of Indian residential schools and to honour those who did not go home. This work demands the attention of every member of this Legislature and it needs the collective action of all 124 members who were elected to serve here. All of us here must be fully committed to implementing the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address the ongoing legacy of residential schools. The discovery of the unmarked graves of these 215 children shows us again that genocide, colonization and oppression are not in Canada’s past; our people live with the effects in the present.
Speaker, today our hearts and our prayers are with the families and nations of these young people who did not get to return home and with all survivors of Indian residential schools across Canada. I ask for a moment of silence to recognize the 215 children who did not return home from Kamloops Indian Residential School. Meegwetch.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Kiiwetinoong is seeking the unanimous consent of the House for a moment of silence to remember the 215 children who did not return home from Kamloops Indian Residential School. Agreed? Agreed.
Members will please rise.
The House observed a moment’s silence.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you very much. Members, please take your seats.
I’m going to recess the House for five minutes.
The House recessed from 1046 to 1051.