With the discovery of an estimated 215 children buried at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, the CBC reported a story “Remains found at Kamloops residential school ‘not an isolated incident,’ Indigenous experts and leaders warn” with the subtitle, “Calls mount for protection of former sites in case more remains discovered“.

However, the article neglected to mention the Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #75, from the 2015 TRC final report, that called for that very thing.

 

Titles have since been changed: see footnote.

**PSA**

The National Indian Residential School Crisis Line provides support, including emotional and crisis referral services,
for former Residential School students
and others affected:

1-866-925-4419
(24-hour)

 

As Khelsilem tweeted the same day the CBC article was published,

On Missing Children and Burial Information, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had six Calls-to-Action which have not yet been completed. Here are the six:
[…]
75. We call upon the federal government to work with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, churches, Aboriginal communities, former residential school students, and current landowners to develop and implement strategies and procedures for the ongoing identification, documentation, maintenance, commemoration, and protection of residential school cemeteries or other sites at which residential school children were buried.
[…]

The CBC’s story*, that doesn’t feature an author byline, has no mention of the TRC, as if it didn’t happen or is of no current relevance to this situation.
[*: link to archived story, as it appeared while writing this; also see footnote at bottom]

Not mentioning the relevant TRC Calls To Action, also means there is no segue to bring up how in the past six years, the calls were ignored by government.

The one actual quote about protecting the sites of potential graves, is this:

“We need to make sure they [residential school sites] are controlled and protected so full investigations can be done,” [Mary Ellen] Turpel-Lafond [director of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at the University of British Columbia] said.

The way that news media operates – ‘news’ is getting someone to say something and then quote them, but not to independently quote from a previous source document, even if that document represents years of work and input from a large collective of voices and experiences – can explain how this happened.

But observing this instance of how news media operates, provides a partial window on the function that establishment systems have in relation to the calls to action from The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, as well as those from the more recent (2016-2019) National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls*, the earlier (1991-1996) Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, and many lesser-known government undertakings purported to ‘finally address’ these issues, in allowing the recommendations to be so easily sidelined and ignored by governments.

[*: The MMIWG inquiry’s final report stated clearly, “Legally speaking, this genocide consists of a composite wrongful act… this breach [of international law] will persist as long as genocidal acts continue to occur and destructive policies are maintained. … It is time to call it as it is: Canada’s past and current colonial policies, actions and inactions towards Indigenous Peoples is genocide. And genocide, as per law binding on Canada, demands accountability.” – bold emphases added, for the issues being discussed here]

After the initial buzz around commission/inquiry reports has left the news cycle, they are no longer deemed important or relevant by the preponderance of society’s officially-sanctioned storytellers – they are no longer ‘news’ or ‘news-worthy’.

An organization like the Yellowhead Institute can release a special report – “Calls to Action Accountability: A 2020 Status Update on Reconciliation” – documenting how, five years later, only eight of the 94 Calls To Action have been implemented, and that may become ‘news’ for a few days… but otherwise, in general, the fact that these recommendations are not being followed through on is not as important (to the news media) as the countless other stories they breathlessly report upon day after day.

Context is not a strong suit for the type of content most encouraged and practiced by those paid to do the reporting. But what more suitable situation could there be, than what is happening now – with the further exposure to public view of the actual genocidal history of the country, and the corresponding public outpouring of emotion – to actually ‘connect the dots’ and ensure material changes are enacted?

As Gabrielle Fayant tweeted,

Imagine if survivors and Indigenous folks got together and explained in detail how Canadian governments and churches could work towards repairing the damage of residential schools?

Well, they did in 2015! There are 94 Calls to Action. Only 10 were completed, others were coopted

Government departments began using the word reconciliation for everything but yet none of the policies or funding programs they created were in response to the calls to action [Emoticon: Woman facepalming]

TRC 66 “multi-year funding for youth and grassroots” turned into micro grants..

Churches and feds still withholding evidence and even taking survivors to court! Their mission statement should be: Do anything not to be held accountable.

Meanwhile Indigenous people’s continue to be highly surveilled, alarming rates of police brutality and incarceration. Data unethically collected by institutions to keep track of us.

THERE ARE MORE CHILDREN IN CUSTODY TODAY THAN AT THE PEAK OF RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS!

Clearly I’m upset, I’ve been upset for years.. And I see many settlers that are now upset too but I’m also like how did it take you so long? And can we get to work already???

 


 

Footnote:
The CBC article was revised since the writing of this piece. Compare the archived version (also linked above) with the current ‘live’ version. There is still nothing pertaining to the TRC or its Calls To Action. Note that I had first used the ‘Report typo or correction’ button on the article itself, and then later tweeted to CBC, asking them to mention what the TRC itself had recommended; they did correct the phrasing about the enrollment numbers at the school, that I had also suggested via the correction feedback button, but not (what I consider to be) the major issue.

Footnote 2:
It was relayed to me second-hand, that one of the interviewees featured in the article for a local CBC Ottawa article, did indeed mention to the reporter about the TRC and at least one of the relevant Calls To Action, but that wasn’t included in what was published.

Footnote 3:
The day after I published this, a front page article in the Globe & Mail focused on the same theme of calls to investigate other potential unmarked gravesites, and also did not mention any of the related TRC Calls To Action – but it did mention the TRC itself, through some quotes from the author of the TRC report, “Where are the Children Buried?”
A different Globe and Mail article reported on a message from Murray Sinclair, who was chair of the TRC, but didn’t mention the Calls To Action; a CBC article on Sinclair’s message, did say “The TRC released 94 calls to action six years ago following a lengthy investigation into residential schools. It made six recommendations regarding missing children and burial grounds” and included the details of one of those calls.

Footnote 4:
On Thursday, Sinclair spoke to a House of Commons committee, and, as reported by the Toronto Star/ Canadian Press:

Sinclair said the TRC urged the government in its calls to action numbers 71 to 75 to work with the churches and the Indigenous communities to locate burial sites and list the names of children who died.
“Nothing has been done by the government to follow that up,” he said. “We think that’s a sad commentary upon the commitment the government has or lack of commitment the government has to trying to close the story.”
He said the churches who ran residential schools have not yet shared their records of the deaths of Indigenous children with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.