Indigenous Bodies: One Year After Discoveries and Orange Shirts
Last year’s Canada Day was marked by demonstrations of support for Indigenous peoples, orange shirts prominently displayed. The discovery of hundreds of children’s graves on the sites of former boarding schools had tarnished the celebration. A year later, Quebec has just launched its first excavation. Where is the process of reconciliation in the Belle Province?
In Quebec, Bill 79 adopted in June 2021 makes it possible to support the families of missing or deceased Indigenous children in their search for information, but where have we been for a year?
The spring and summer of 2021 had been marked by the gruesome discoveries of the remains of 215 children in British Columbia and 751 unmarked graves in Saskatchewan near former residential schools for aboriginals. In Quebec, a first dig was announced on June 21. Indeed, the Cree Nation of Chisasibi was the first nation to announce that it wanted to carry out excavations on the remains of residential schools for natives on the island of Fort George. These were the first to be built in Quebec in the 1930s by the Anglican and Catholic churches.
“We will conduct this research on the ground, armed with the knowledge that the answers will be difficult for many inside and outside of Eeyou Istchee,” Chisasibi First Nation Chief Daisy said in a statement. House. “Our missing children never came home. Where they rest is sacred ground – it is up to us to bless their memory.”
According to Eric Duguay, director of public affairs and strategic communications for the Aboriginal consulting firm Acosys Services Conseils, many communities are still considering whether to hold potential digs. “[Les communautés] take time to avoid opening wounds for survivors [des pensionnats]he says.
Maybe answers for families
Since the adoption of Law 79 last year, the Ministry responsible for Aboriginal Affairs explains that it has opened files for 62 families. These files seek information about 84 children who disappeared before December 31, 1992.
Through this law, the Government of Quebec wishes to help families and their communities to lift the veil on the fate of their children.
Office of the Minister responsible for Indigenous Affairs, Ian Lafrenière
Last April, a progress report was submitted to the National Assembly to give an account of the requests made. Of the first 35 applications filed on that date, more than half (51.4%) came from Innu families, followed by 28% of applications from Atikamekw families.
Nearly 51% of the requests were for young girls and 38% were for young boys. For 11% of the requests, the sex of the missing child was uncertain.
“Everyone hopes to understand the circumstances of the disappearance or death of the children, to know where they are, if they are still alive, or to know their place of burial,” explains Minister Lafrenière’s office.
An injunction that takes time in the New Vic
Last March, an application for an injunction was filed in the Superior Court of Quebec by six Mohawk mothers from Kahnawake. They allege that archaeological remains as well as unmarked graves could be found on the site of the former Royal Victoria Hospital and the Allan Memorial Institute.
Judge Gregory Moore was finally chosen on June 28, but the dates of a hearing have yet to be determined. One of the fears of the Mohawk Mothers is that work on the New Vic project will begin before such a hearing takes place.
“It could go until the end of the summer, or even in the fall. […] The Mohawk Mothers are ready and determined for this to happen,” says Mohawk Mothers media manager Okwaraken.
According to him, McGill and the partners of the New Vic project are showing a “lack of clarity” regarding the timelines of the project. Contacted by SubwayMcGill University explained to be “[prête] to collaborate with representatives of governments and indigenous communities so that the necessary research is carried out”. The university has not come forward on the start date of the work.
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