Letter: Action needed on residential schools

We would like to propose some points upon which action might be taken

Action needed on residential schools

We are Zannetta and Owen Anthony and we want to make our thoughts clear about the tragedy of the 215 children found on the grounds of the residential school site in Kamloops.

The discovery of the graves at the site of the former residential school in Kamloops is more than a tragedy. If one were to investigate the so-called Indian hospitals where forced sterilizations occurred, where babies were born and died without records, one would find, yet again, the evidence of cruel injustice perpetrated on a people without rights.

However, we are tired of hearing from all corners “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry”. What is needed desperately and immediately is not just the horrified reaction to more atrocious news but action! We would like to propose some points upon which action might be taken.

1. DNA testing to identify the families of these poor little ones.

2. Establish a trust fund in the names of the unknown to honour these children.

3. Examination of all previous residential school sites to see whether there are other atrocities as yet undiscovered.

4. Administer this fund honourably and efficiently to make sure that at least some of the following happens soon:

• Clean potable water on the reserves

• Functioning sewer and septic systems

• Decent roads, housing, schools and medical facilities

These measures will take money, lots of money. It cannot make up for the cruelty, cultural genocide, and constant denigration of Canada’s First Nations People, but it can make a difference in the lives of hundreds of reserves. Too much lip service and very little sincere and authentic action has been the hallmark of the past dealings with our First Nations citizens. And may we also point out that these citizens did not even have the right to vote in this wonderful country; nor could they travel on and off reserves without the permission of the Indian agent. The right to vote and to travel are now rights by law — late but nevertheless ‘awarded’ as a gift bestowed upon an inferior.

If you have ever heard a speech by a First Nation person, you could not but be moved by the quality of the talk. Many a great orator is among these people. Chief Dan George was but one. At the end of the talk is the statement “All my relations.” It is an acknowledgement of the belief that we are one, that we are in tune with all that is, that the past and present and future surround us.

Let us honour our commitments by taking action now.

Written to honour and heal,

Zannetta Varley Anthony and Owen Anthony

Cobble Hill