To the Athabasca University Community
Athabasca University Students’ Union (AUSU) is saddened by the discovery of the bodies of 215 Indigenous children in a mass grave at the former site of Kamloops Indian Residential School. We stand with the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation and all survivors of Canada’s residential school system as they grieve this unimaginable loss.
It has served as a powerful reminder of Canada’s shameful colonial legacy and the work that must still be done. The residential school system was part of a national colonial policy that removed Indigenous children from their families and communities, forbidding them to speak their language or practice their traditions. Many were neglected, abused, and killed, never to be seen again by their loved ones as they lie hidden in unmarked graves.
Understandably, the truth uncovered in Kamloops has affected many. Survivors and relatives are reliving traumas from a not-so-distant past, with the last remaining residential school only having closed in 1996. If you need immediate support, please contact the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line available 24/7 at 1-866-925-4419. Additional support is available through the Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program. Athabasca University students may also contact Nukskahtowin, the centre serving AU Indigenous academics, at [email protected] or 1-800-788-9041 ext. 5054.
Furthermore, AUSU once again calls upon Athabasca University and the federal and provincial governments to fully implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action regarding residential schools, including those specific to post-secondary education that are:
- develop a joint strategy to eliminate educational and employment gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians;
- provide adequate funding to end the backlog of First Nations students seeking a post-secondary education;
- create university and college degree and diploma programs in Aboriginal languages;
- fully adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP);
- provide the necessary funding to post-secondary institutions to educate their instructors on integrating Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into classrooms; and
- establish a national research program with multi-year funding that will continue to advance the understanding of reconciliation.
We must all continue the important work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. For our part, AUSU will continue advocating for our Indigenous student members, decolonializing and Indigenizing our space, and using the resources we have to amplify Indigenous voices.