Indigenous leader calls for UN probe into Canada's role in human rights abuses at residential schools

By Christopher Guly, Shang Xuqian (Xinhua) 10:12, April 27, 2022

OTTAWA/UNITED NATIONS, April 27 (Xinhua) -- An indigenous leader is pressing the United Nations to investigate alleged genocide by the Canadian government in residential schools for indigenous children.

"The Canadian government established what I call 'institutions of assimilation and genocide,'" said RoseAnne Archibald, national chief of Canada's Assembly of First Nations (AFN), an organization for indigenous rights, at a session of the UN Permanent Forum in New York on Monday.

"These institutions were designed to kill the Indian in the child by forbidding them to speak their language, which disconnect them from their families and communities," she said.

In May 2021, the remains of 215 indigenous children were discovered at the site of a former Indian residential school in the west coast Canadian province of British Columbia.

A month later, hundreds more unmarked graves at the site of another residential school in another province, Saskatchewan, were found.

Since then, more remains have been located at schools, mainly run by the Catholic Church and funded by the Canadian government.

"I'm calling on the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, along with other special rapporteurs, to conduct full-fledged investigations of the circumstances and responsibilities surrounding these institutions, including full redress, criminal prosecutions and sanctions and other remedies for human rights violations, including genocide," she said.

Archibald has also called on the International Criminal Court to launch its own human rights investigation into Canada's residential schools.

In its annual budget delivered earlier this month, the Canadian government set aside about 8.2 million U.S. dollars over two years to the federal justice department to appoint a special interlocutor to work with Canada's indigenous communities to protect and preserve unmarked burial sites.

"We will always cooperate with the United Nations," Canadian Justice Minister David Lametti told reporters in Ottawa on Monday.

The government's 2022 budget also included 165 million U.S. dollars over five years to, in part, help "document, locate and memorialize" burial sites at former Indian residential schools.

A national inquiry into what transpired at residential schools conducted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, created through a legal settlement between school survivors, the AFN, representatives of Canada's Inuit community, the Canadian government and the Christian Churches that ran the institutions, found that more than 4,100 children died while attending the schools.

Still, Archibald sees little hope of impartial investigations by the Canadian government.

"Canada's government established those institutions through policies and legislation. How can they possibly be independent and impartial when it shows that they are culpable and guilty of the deaths of our children?" Archibald said, noting that the federal Royal Canadian Mounted Police would enter Indian communities, take children forcibly and threaten parents with arrest.

"Canada must not be allowed to investigate itself," Archibald said. "Please help us ensure that nothing like this ever happens again. Not just to us, but to anyone." 

(Web editor: Zhong Wenxing, Liang Jun)


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