Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,
As the oldest and now largest Indigenous women’s organization in Canada and In the wake of the findings, by the Cowessess First Nation, of an estimated 751 unmarked graves on the grounds of the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan, the Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) is writing this Open Letter to demand that the federal government take urgent action.
This most recent tragedy is part of a long line of evidence that continues to reveal the level of disrespect and continued harm that Indigenous people face in Canada. In the month of June 2021, Canadians have had to face this history of harm: 215 children’s bodies at the Kamloops Indian residential school, Joyce Echaquan’s hearing on her death in a hospital, Barbara Kentner’s murderer was sentenced, and the ongoing crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. These events are directly linked to the devastating impacts of colonization and the failure of the federal government to take the necessary actions to address it.
ONWA, has consistently called on the federal government to make significant investments in healing for Indigenous women, their families, and communities. Increasingly other Canadians have joined us to recognize this moral imperative to act and address the crimes against Indigenous people. These calls have been largely unmet, despite the government’s commitment to advancing reconciliation and forging a new relationship based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation. The nation is now watching the consequences of this lack of action unfold in real time.
To begin to address the harmful fallout of this week’s appalling discovery, the events that preceded it, and those that we know will follow, we as the mothers, aunties, and grandmothers are calling on the federal government to immediately assume the following four actions.
First, ONWA is calling for the full reinstatement of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, including funding and programs to support healing services for Indigenous women, families, and communities.
Second, ONWA is calling for the entire implementation of all 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Third, ONWA calls for the government to support Indigenous communities, including urban Indigenous communities to implement the 231 Calls to Justice from the National Inquiry’s Final Report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
As a nation, we are facing a moment in time in which the children’s spirits who are being discovered are calling for action. Their spirits are here now, and we must honour them. Our final action that ONWA is calling for is a way to commemorate and honour these little ones through a day of sorrow and remembering every year. Canadians are ready to take up this responsibility and we ask this government to listen to our collective voices.
The Liberal government states it is committed to transformative change, and you specifically stated that “[n]o relationship is more important to Canada than the relationship with Indigenous Peoples.” We are asking that this be demonstrated by undertaking the necessary outlined actions. These actions must be taken in conjunction to appropriately support Indigenous peoples’ healing from the collective trauma of colonization and the ongoing residual impacts, as well as to restore balance within communities. These actions are required to improve the quality of life of Indigenous peoples and advance reconciliation.
We would welcome a meeting with you or your officials to discuss the need for these immediate actions. We look forward to ongoing dialogue with the government to ensure that these three actions be taken now.
The Honourable Erin O’Toole P.C., M.P., Leader of the Official Opposition
Mr. Jagmeet Singh, Leader of the New Democratic Party
Ms. Annamie Paul, Leader of the Green Party
Mr. Yves-François Blanchet, Leader of the Bloc Québécois