The Indigenous Bar Association grieves with the T’Exelcemc and continues to mourn generations of indigenous children victimized by Canadian residential “school” systems

For those presently in need of support during these trying times, the IBA urges you to contact the Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419, or the Indigenous Residential School Survivors’ Society

at 1-800-721-0066.

Ottawa, ONT – The members of the Indigenous Bar Association in Canada (the “IBA”) are horrified by the recent discovery of the remains of 93 children at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission residential “school” near the Williams Lake First Nation community. Indigenous peoples throughout Canada, and those with close ties to the T’exelcemc, continue to mourn the loss of their ancestors and denounce the dreadful atrocities committed against them. The IBA stands with the T’exelcemc and continues to grieve for the countless Indigenous children stolen and victimized by Canada’s residential “school” system.

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (“NCTR”) and the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (“TRC”) have confirmed the identities of 4,117 Indigenous children that died due to the neglect and abuse they experienced in residential “schools”. The NCTR estimates that closer to 6,000 lives of innocent Indigenous children have been lost from these horrific institutions. The recognition of these unmarked graves allows for greater understanding of the appalling truth which has been too long overlooked.

Earlier this month, the federal government announced that it reached an agreement with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to hand over thousands of documents relating to residential “school” system. The announcement follows growing demands from Survivors and Indigenous leaders across Turtle Island for Ottawa to fulfil its legal obligation to release the documents to Indigenous Peoples. These recent events take on the difficult, but necessary, journey to discover the unthinkable horrors and lasting impacts of the residential “school” system. It is time for Survivors, their families, and their communities to have access to the answers they are owed.      

For Indigenous Peoples, this process of (re)uncovery is replete with many painful reminders of how First Nation, Inuit, and Métis Peoples have been—and continue to be—injured and marginalized by colonialism. This is just the start of a new chapter in Turtle Island’s collective understanding of the Indigenous children who were stolen from their families and never returned home.

The IBA remains steadfast in our support of Indigenous communities, traditions, and the revival of Indigenous laws as a critical component of healing and de-colonization. These collective experiences must inform our visions of a better future and the continuing contributions of Indigenous People to Canadian law. For those looking to take action and pick up the calls for justice, the IBA has compiled a list of further resources below.

At the same time, the IBA recognizes that within any movement for justice for Indigenous Peoples, commensurate space must be created to remember and mourn the memory of our stolen relatives. Indigenous Peoples have long honoured their lost ancestors and advocated for increased recognition of those relatives stolen by Canadian residential “schools” or lost to the genocidal and other colonial actions aimed at erasing Indigenous Peoples. Now, more than ever, Indigenous voices must be listened to, amplified, and validated throughout the land we now know as Canada. Where space for grief, healing, and ceremony is requested by communities, this space must be respected.

The IBA wishes you strength, resiliency, and lasting courage during this difficult time.

If you are looking for ways to contribute, learn more, or offer supports, please visit:

  • TRC Calls to Action
  • National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation
  • Indian Residential School Survivors Society
  • First Nations Caring Society
  • Legacy of Hope Foundation
  • The Orange Shirt Society
  • Reconciliation Canada Foundation
  • Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund

The IBA is comprised of Indigenous lawyers (practicing and non-practicing), legal academics and scholars, articling clerks and law students, including graduate and post-graduate law students. We are mandated to promote the advancement of legal and social justice for Indigenous peoples in Canada and the reform of laws and policies affecting Indigenous peoples. We continue our commitment to collective healing and implementing the TRC’s Calls to Action. For more information please visit www.indigenousbar.ca.