As the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples continues his visit across Canada, residential school survivors and advocates hope he puts pressure on Canada to address further reparations for harms suffered.
“There is a whole gamut of issues that have not been dealt with,” said Evelyn Korkmaz, a residential school survivor from Fort Albany First Nation on the west coast of James Bay.
José Francisco Calí Tzay, who concludes his visit on Friday, will examine a wide range of issues affecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis, including residential schools and unmarked burials.
Korkmaz didn’t get a chance to meet with Calí Tzay as he marks his first official visit to Canada but said she hopes he helps spread awareness of what some survivors are still dealing with.
Over 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were forced to attend the government-funded schools between the 1870s and 1997.
Kormaz attended St. Anne’s residential school in Fort Albany between 1969 and 1972.
In October, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an appeal by survivors of St. Anne’s in an ongoing dispute with the federal government over the impact of withheld documents on compensation claims.
“It’s not over. This is just the beginning,” said Korkmaz.
Barriers locating missing children, unmarked graves
Kimberly Murray, special interlocutor for missing children and unmarked graves associated with residential schools, met with Calí Tzay last week in Montreal.
“We actually don’t have full reparations in Canada to respond to the human rights abuses that happen to Indigenous people,” she said.
Murray said she told him how the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission were only steps toward reparations for harms suffered at residential schools. She said the need to support communities with finding missing children is another important step forward.
Survivors and I met with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Tyohtyà:ke this evening. We discussed the need for justice, accountability and full reparations for Survivors, their families, communities and for the children still in unmarked burials. <a href=”https://t.co/qr8Ox4xjS9″>pic.twitter.com/qr8Ox4xjS9</a>
“There’s a continued lack of access to records, lack of access to land, lack of financial resources for communities,” said Murray.
She said many of these barriers could be addressed if Canada implemented the United Nations Declaration on the rights of Indigenous People — a document outlining the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of Indigenous Peoples.
“I’m hopeful that he will make recommendations around removing these barriers, but also I’m hopeful that he’ll stress the importance of the urgency of it,” said Murray.
“This is taking too long for the government to respond.”
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller also met with Calí Tzay in Montreal, and said their conversation touched on unmarked burials, searching of former residential school sites, as well as implementing UNDRIP legislation.
Just finished a meeting with Francisco Cali Tzay, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I appreciated the frank and open discussion on the challenges Canada faces in addressing historic and current injustices towards Indigenous Peoples. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/cdnpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#cdnpoli</a> <a href=”https://t.co/YvjzCJrSqU”>pic.twitter.com/YvjzCJrSqU</a>
“The big step for government is actually getting to, with Indigenous peoples, getting to the finish line,” he said.
“That’s where, as a government, we often stumble on is that implementation portion of principles and policy.”
Although the National Advisory Committee on Residential School Missing Children and Unmarked Burials didn’t get a chance to meet with Calí Tzay, committee member Dr. Kona Williams said she hopes his visit will bring the issue of unmarked burials to the international stage.
“Canada is a wonderful, beautiful place, but it’s got a dark side,” said Williams.
“As soon as the rest of the world understands that, I hope that change can really happen for the better for Indigenous people across Canada.”
Calí Tzay will release his preliminary findings and recommendations to Canada on Friday.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for residential school survivors and others affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.
Support is also available for anyone affected by their experience at Indian or federal day schools. Individuals can access immediate mental health counselling and crisis intervention services at the Hope for Wellness helpline by calling 1-855-242-3310 or online at www.hopeforwellness.ca.