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Protesters to Canadian Federal Government: Where Are The Children Buried?

By Bob Ewing     Feb 8, 2008 in Politics
In Canada, approximately 100,000 aboriginal children were taken from their homes and families, 40,000 to 50,000 of those children simply went missing between 1840 and 1940 and their families never heard from them again.
A group of people who believe that they have the right to know what happened to the tens of thousands of aboriginal who disappeared from residential school marched in Toronto, today.
They were joined by Filmmaker Kevin Annett, who produced a documentary called "Hidden From History: The Canadian Holocaust.
The report from Canoe said that the marchers made it clear to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the heads of Anglican, Catholic and United churches that they will not rest until everything is known about the fate of these children and the children’s families finally have closure.
The federal government estimates that as many as 100,000 children attended residential schools. Annett has stated that the best estimate is that 40,000 to 50,000 kids simply went missing between 1840 and 1940 and their families never heard from them again.
The controversy surrounding the schools involves physical and sexual abuse and other human rights violations. In 1998, the federal government issued an apology and said "attitudes of racial and cultural superiority led to a suppression of aboriginal culture and values."
The group is trying to use the Access to Information Act in order to get the locations of unmarked graves where children were buried near residential schools and all available information on how they died.
"We're here for the survivors and the residential school families who continue to suffer under the fact that they don't know what happened to their relatives, and they simply want them brought home," Annette said.
Gary Wassaykeesic is one of the people seeking this information; he said his experience in a residential school robbed him of his culture.
"I was a little kid and I was told I'm going for a trip - this trip has lasted me 46 years," he said.
"To this day I've lost my language, to this day I've lost my culture, I don't know how to trap, I don't know how to hunt. I know how to be a concrete Indian."
There is always an outpouring of outrage and concern when genocide is reported but, on the other hand, there's little attention being given to the children who simply vanished.
"We talk about it but what can we do as a people when we don't have the resources, we don't have the money, we don't have the connections," Wassaykeesic said.
"We have stories but nobody ever investigates the stories." John Garlow did not attend a residential school system but his father did, and the experience left him scarred.
"They took my dad at an early age and the way they treated him, some of that has been bestowed upon me," Garlow said. "Me, I'm a survivor because I went through a lot of the residential school abuse through my father."
A truth and reconciliation commission is being set up by the federal government in order to find ways to identify the number of children who died at residential schools and the causes of death, said Kimberly Phillips, a spokeswoman for Indian Residential Schools Resolution Canada, a federal department created in 2001.
Church and government records will be examined and interviews will be conducted with former students, staff and anyone else who wishes to be heard.
No criminal investigations will be carried out.
The three churches have agreed to co-operate fully with the commission.
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