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ONTARIO NATIVE WOMEN'S ASSOCIATION (ONWA)

Open Letter

TO PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU

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Open Letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister 80 Wellington Street Ottawa, ON  K1A 0A2

June 25, 2021

RE: Immediate action needed to address the discovery of mass graves of Indigenous children

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.

 

 

Signed,
 

C.C.:

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  

 
ONWA's Every Child Matters Graphic

Letter Writing Campaign

Over 150,000 children were forced to attend residential schools across Canada and many never returned home. We can see the evidence in mass unmarked graves such as the Kamloops Residential School, the Cowessess First Nation Marieval Indian Residential School, and countless more yet to be identified. We need to support one another and stand collectively in demanding justice on behalf of all Indigenous children. Every Child Matters.

ONWA acknowledges and honours the thousands of families that are impacted by the horrific legacy of residential schools. ONWA supports Indigenous women and their families whose hearts are broken and stands with you in mourning.

“In their resiliency, Indigenous women continue to lead the way. As we grieve the loss of generations of Indigenous children, ONWA is committed to ensuring that the voices of Indigenous women are heard and the echoes of the children’s voices from the spirit world are honoured.”

- Cora McGuire-Cyrette, Executive Director, ONWA

 
 

How to Get Involved

Everyone has a role to play in advancing reconciliation.

Be a part of reconciliation by joining ONWA's letter writing campaign calling for all levels of government to immediately take action; an important step in rebuilding Canada's relationship with Indigenous peoples.

1

Send a Letter to the Prime Minister or your member of parliament (MP)

We would welcome you to download or copy the Example Letter 

Mail may be sent postage-free to any Member of Parliament at the following addresses:

Office of the Prime Minister

80 Wellington Street Ottawa, ON

K1A 0A2

Click here to submit an automated letter to the PM.

 

OR

 

Name of Member of Parliament

House of Commons Ottawa, ON

K1A 0A6

Click here to find the name and mailing address of your MP.

2

Read the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) 94 Calls to Action

 

In 2015, the TRC requested that the Canadian government begin the search for the suspected unmarked graves at the known 130 residential schools across Canada; that request was denied.

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Example Letter

RE: Immediate action needed to address the discovery of mass graves of Indigenous children

 

I am writing this letter to demand the federal government take urgent action.

 

Calls on the federal government to make significant investments in healing for Indigenous women, their families, and communities have been largely unmet; despite the government’s commitment to advancing reconciliation.

 

To begin to address the harmful fallout of the appalling discovery of unmarked residential school graves, the events that preceded it, and those that we know will follow, we as the mothers, aunties, and grandmothers call on the federal government to immediately assume the following actions:

 

1) Full reinstatement of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, including funding and programs to support healing services for Indigenous women, families, and communities.

 

2) Implementation of all 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

 

3) 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.

 

4) A way to commemorate and honour these little ones through a day of sorrow and remembering every year.

 

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. 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.”

 

Reconciliation takes more than words, it takes action and these actions must be taken now.

 
 

Cultural Supports

IF YOU ARE IN NEED OF CULTURAL SUPPORTS:

Indian Residential School Survivors Society Emergency Crisis Line

For anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of his or her Residential school experience

Available across Canada 24/7

Call: 1-866-925-4419

Talk4Healing Help Line

For culturally sensitive crisis counselling, advise and support

Available across Ontario 24/7 

Call: 1-855-554-HEAL (4325)

Website: talk4healing.com