The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH) acknowledges its presence on the traditional territory of many Indigenous Nations. The area known as Tkaronto has been care taken by the Anishinabek Nation, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, and the Huron-Wendat. It is now home to many First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities. We acknowledge the current treaty holders, the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. This territory is subject of the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement to peaceably share and care for the Great Lakes region.
The COH is deeply saddened by the discovery at the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation. We collectively mourn and honour the remains of the 215 children found at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. This horrific revelation serves as a somber reminder of Canada’s colonial history and the intergenerational trauma experienced by too many. Over 150,000 Indigenous children were forcibly abducted from their homes and forced to attend residential schools. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) finds that many Indigenous children who were relocated to residential schools never returned to their homes. Some fled, while others died under the watch of the residential schools – some as young as three years old. The Missing Children are a group of pupils that did not return, and it was not uncommon for parents to never learn what happened to their children. The first residential school was established in the 1880s, and the last one closed as recently as 1996. The violent legacy caused by residential schools is still experienced today, and Indigenous children continue to be taken from their families, communities, and nations.
Our commitment to reconciliation operates within a reality where Indigenous homelessness is rooted in the genocidal projects of the residential schools, the Sixties Scoop, and the massive numbers of Indigenous children in state care. Where there are three times as many Indigenous children in the government’s custody today as there were during the height of residential schools. And where 70.5% of Indigenous youth experiencing homelessness in Canada have been involved in the child welfare system at some point in their lives.
As a settler organization, the COH continues to offer our solidarity and support for all Indigenous Peoples and communities. As an extension of York University, we echo President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton’s statement. We must work towards increasing our understanding and awareness as we recognize that reconciliation is ongoing and entails a concerted effort. We must learn more about the history of Residential Schools and its impact. The COH is committed to working with its Indigenous partners and communities to contribute to a future of healing and reconciliation. We recognize the genocide that took place in the residential schools, mourn the lives that were lost, and condemn the violent assimilation and unchecked horrors. We will listen to and learn from Survivors’ stories of resilience and strength.
June is National Indigenous History Month, and we encourage everyone to honour the history, traditions, and variety of Canada's First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. Despite their similarities, these communities have separate histories, languages, cultural traditions, and spiritual beliefs - all of which must be celebrated. The national 25thanniversary of honouring the legacy, various cultures, and exceptional achievements of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples will be held on June 21, 2021.
The National Indian Residential School Crisis Line offers 24/7 support for residential school Survivors at 1-866-925-4419.
The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness