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Mass grave found in Canada containing 215 bodies from an Indigenous residential school

 Mass grave found in Canada containing 215 bodies from an Indigenous residential school

The bodies of 215 Indigenous children were found in a mass grave on the grounds of Kamloops Indian Residential School, the now-closed Kamloops Indigenous residential school, which was located in the town of the same name in British Columbia. This horrific discovery is further proof of the brutality and inhumanity of the Indian Residential School system, which lasted into the 1970s in Canada and aimed to eradicate Indigenous culture and turn Indigenous children into a workforce. work submitted for Canadian capitalism.

Mass grave found in Canada containing 215 bodies from an Indigenous residential school
Makeshift memorial in Vancouver to commemorate Indigenous children who died at Kamloops Residential School, May 30, 2021 (Wikimedia Commons)

Local indigenous people, including school survivors, have led a decades-long campaign for an investigation into the Kamloops school grounds. On Thursday, Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc people of south-central British Columbia released a preliminary report.

To date, 215 corpses, some of them children as young as three, have been identified using ground-penetrating radar. Their deaths have never been documented. Casimir said more bodies could be found as other parts of the land remain to be searched. Similar gruesome discoveries, but never of this magnitude, have been made over the years at other sites of former residential schools. Aboriginal chiefs have described the Kamloops mass grave as "the tip of the iceberg."

Community members brought flowers and other keepsakes to the Kamloops school site. In Vancouver, artists lined 215 pairs of small shoes on the steps of the city's art gallery to remember children and the crimes committed against them. Their action inspired similar memorials in towns and villages across the country. These actions, largely spontaneous, testify to the general horror and disgust among the population, of all ethnic origins, in the face of the mistreatment and violence suffered by the indigenous population at the hands of the Canadian capitalist state.

The Kamloops Indian Residential School, the largest in the entire residential school system, was established in 1890 under the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church, which managed it until 1969. It was then taken over by the federal government as a day school until it closed in 1978. Over the years, the school's survivors have provided detailed accounts of the conditions of malnutrition, as well as the systemic physical, sexual and psychological illness and violence to which they have suffered. been subjected, both them and other children who had been taken from their parents.

For over 100 years, a residential school system operated in Canada through financial and administrative arrangements between the Government of Canada and the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian and United Churches. In total, more than 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children have passed through more than 130 residential schools in virtually every region of the country. It is estimated that 70,000 to 80,000 former residential school students are still alive today.

The residential school system was established in 1876 under the famous Indian Act shortly after Confederation, the agreement reached by railway promoters, bankers, corrupt politicians and British colonial officials, under from which the major colonies of British North America were united in an autonomous federal state. Funded by the Department of Indian Affairs and operated by the churches, these schools were integral to the achievement of one of the main goals of Confederation: the consolidation and establishment of the domination of capitalist property relations in what today is the four western provinces.

In the decades that followed, the Canadian ruling elite dispossessed the indigenous peoples of western Canada of their land through a combination of repression, famine and massacres. Indigenous peoples were grouped into "reservations" while their children were abducted and placed in residential schools under the so-called "civilizing" influence of churches and other state agents. The last of these establishments closed in 1996.

These schools were modeled after reformatories and juvenile prisons. The children were torn from their parents, sometimes at gunpoint from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and cut off from their families. Once delivered to schools, they were subjected to a controlled and brutally disciplined environment that combined religious instruction with elementary education. They were subjected to humiliating and dehumanizing treatment in order to eradicate the influence of indigenous culture and instill in them submission.

Children were regularly beaten if they spoke their mother tongue and were called "stupid Indians". The system was designed by the government to be self-sufficient, that is, not to cost it money. Much of the “school day” was devoted to grueling chores, including working in the fields. Yet food, like school books, was scarce and rationed. The children received little or no medical attention. This situation, along with their housing conditions in barracks, coupled with poor quality food, contributed to the endemic spread of tuberculosis in schools, especially before 1950.

The testimonies of the survivors of these schools reveal the full extent of the horrors inflicted on Indigenous children by Church administrators supported by Canadian state power. Here is one of those testimonials:

“I was at the Muscowequan boarding school from 1944 to 1949, and I had a difficult life there. I was being abused in every way possible. There was a young girl, and she was pregnant with a priest. And what they did was she had her baby, and they took the baby, and wrapped him in a nice pink outfit, and took him downstairs where I was cooking dinner. with the nun. They took the baby into the furnace, threw him in it, and burned him alive. All you could hear was that little cry, like 'Uuh!' and that was it. You could smell the scent of the cooking flesh. ”

In 2015, a Dr. eportage WSWS summarizing the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that the Canadian government has established due to the pressure exerted by the survivors of the schools and their supporters noted:

That “between 5,000 and 7,000 children died as a result of disease, malnutrition, fires, suicides and physical violence while in the care of residential schools. Many were buried without even having their names recorded. Parents were not informed of the death of their children… Healthy children were consciously placed in dormitories with children with tuberculosis. Sick and dying children were forced to attend classes and go to church. Malnutrition was rampant. Testimonies from residential school survivors revealed how starving children scrambled for food for cattle. ”

The residential school system was only one part of a broader policy of repression and dispossession of Indigenous peoples. An open policy of starvation was used to drive First Nations from their ancestral lands in the Prairies. Treaty rights have been unilaterally abrogated by the Canadian government. Pass laws, the " Pass LawsWere enacted, which made it illegal for natives to leave the reserve without the approval of the government's Indian agent. The South African authorities charged with developing their own apartheid system were so impressed with Canada's policy towards indigenous peoples that they used it to create elements of their own racist system. It was not until 1960 that “Status Indians” were granted the right to vote and other basic rights of citizens.

In response to the discovery of the mass grave, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ordered the flags to be half-masted. Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett described the residential school system as part of "shameful colonial politics."

The crocodile tears shed by leading representatives of Canadian imperialism should not fool anyone. Their attempt to portray the horrific discovery made at the Kamloops Indian Residential School as “the legacy of colonialism” is a sham. In reality, references to "colonialism" or "settler colonialism" in the abstract are intended to place the blame on the general population or on the so-called "white society" for the crimes, including the genocide, which were perpetrated by Canadian capitalism. In doing so, they absolve the profit system of its responsibility for the horrors inflicted on indigenous peoples.

At the same time, Trudeau, his Liberal government, the union-backed NDP and much of the business media are promoting a reactionary agenda of “reconciliation with the natives”, which behind bogus rhetoric of “justice” and "respect," aims to "reconcile" the indigenous population with the continued oppression of Canadian capitalist. It involves granting a narrow layer of privileged Indigenous professionals and businessmen, many of whom are associated with the Assembly of First Nations or other state-supported groups, increased access to leadership positions. power in the institutions of the capitalist state or on the boards of directors of large companies in the energy, mining and other resources sectors.

The crimes committed against First Nations, Métis and Inuit were not accidental or incidental to the consolidation of the Canadian nation-state and Canadian “democracy”. On the contrary, they arose from the very nature of Canadian capitalism, from the clash between private capitalist property and the communal social relations of indigenous society.

The legacy of the violent dispossession of Indigenous people by the Canadian state continues today, both in isolated Indigenous communities in the North and in the poorer neighborhoods of large Canadian cities like Winnipeg and Vancouver. The life expectancy of Aboriginal people is 15 years less than that of other Canadians. More than half of Indigenous children live in poverty. HIV and AIDS rates are higher in some western reserves than in the most vulnerable African countries. In the Far North, diseases such as tuberculosis are endemic in some communities. Overcrowding in dilapidated houses is rampant. Almost half of the residences on reserve require urgent and major repairs.

Educational opportunities are deplorable: less than 50% of students on reserves graduate from high school. For decades, federally funded schools on Indigenous reserves have received 30% less per capita funding than other Canadian schools and, despite the Trudeau government's promises to increase funding to meet the national average, a significant funding gap remains. Many Indigenous communities do not have access to safe drinking water, with boil water advisories still in effect on many of the 631 reserves at all times. The incarceration rate for aboriginal people is nine times the national average. A young native is more likely to go to jail than to graduate from high school.

Conditions of poverty are not limited to those who live on reserves. Indigenous people in urban centers, who make up about half of the rapidly growing Indigenous population of 1.7 million, have the highest unemployment rates in the country, just behind the rates on Indigenous reserves. Nationally, approximately 50% of First Nations and Inuit people are unemployed.

These dire social conditions fueled growing protests in recent years, from the Idle No More movement to the Wet'suwet'en protests and railroad blockades in early 2020. The Canadian capitalist state has responded with its character ruthlessness and usual brutality, including deploying armed police against protesters and monitoring First Nations communities.

During the Wet'suwet'en protests, establishment circles discussed at length the possibility of deploying the Canadian Armed Forces to crush the protest movement - a move that ultimately proved unnecessary. The eagerness of the Canadian ruling elite to resort to a savage crackdown on the indigenous population goes hand in hand with its growing assault on the democratic rights of all workers, including systematic criminalization, through anti-strike laws and violence. police, of the social opposition of the working class.

The terrible plight of First Nations, Métis and Inuit in Canada underscores the urgent need for the working class to advance a socialist program to abolish the capitalist private property system, which is the basis of oppression. of the Aboriginal population in Canada for 150 years. Rejecting any attempt to pit workers against each other on the basis of national or ethnic criteria, the working class must fight to secure the social and democratic rights of all the oppressed, of which Canada's indigenous people are the most vulnerable.

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