Call comes after more than 1,000 unmarked graves found at institutions Indigenous children were forced to attend for decades.
Warning: The story below contains details of residential schools that may be disturbing. Canada’s Indian Residential School Survivors and Family Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419.
Hundreds of people took part in a rally in the Canadian capital on Saturday to demand an independent investigation into the ‘residential schools’ that indigenous children had to attend for decades and where hundreds of unmarked graves were discover in recent weeks.
The “March for Truth and Justice” rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa was led by New Democratic lawmakers Charlie Angus and Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, who represent the northern part of Nunavut.
“We need to come together and tell the federal institution and Justin Trudeau that enough is enough: Indigenous people need truth and justice,” Qaqqaq wrote in an Instagram post before the event.
“This means a special prosecutor and a fully funded independent investigation, with international observers present, into Canada’s crimes against indigenous peoples.”
. @MumilaaqQaqqaq today led a march of hundreds from Parliament Hill to the Prime Minister’s office, then to the Department of Justice to appoint a special prosecutor to prosecute the crimes against humanity committed in Canada’s residential “school” system , to investigate. pic.twitter.com/dZOviBk4in
– Peace Brigades International – Canada (@PBIcanada) 31 July 2021
More than 1,000 unmarked graves have been discovered at the site of former residential schools in Canada since the end of May, renew trauma and pain between generations for indigenous people.
Between the late 1800s and 1990s, more than 150,000 First Nation, Metis, and Inuit children were forcibly separated from their families and forced to attend residential schools, aimed at assimilating them into Canadian society.
The government-funded, church-run institutions were full of abuse It is estimated that more than 4,000 children died during their attendance.
Indigenous community leaders said there was little doubt that more unmarked graves existed, and they appealed to the Canadian government, as well as the Catholic Church, which operated most of the institutions, to help them search for to fund more unmarked graves.
They also demanded from Canada and the church release any documentation which can help identify any remains found at the sites.
A federal commission of inquiry found that Canada had committed ‘cultural genocide’ through its system of residential schools, and in 2015 it directed 94 calls to action to address the lasting damage of the policy.
But very few of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations have been finalized to date – and indigenous people in Canada, as well as international observers, have called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to do more.
Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada said in an email to Al Jazeera last month that the budget for 2019 provided $ 28 million ($ 33.8 million Canadian) over three years to meet the recommendations on school deaths specifically support.
Trudeau and his ministers also reiterated their commitment to supporting First Nations communities in their efforts.
Yet a group of United Nations experts last month called on Canada and the Catholic Church to conduct “rapid and thorough” investigations into the deaths, including forensic examination of the remains, and to identify the missing children and to register.
“The judiciary must conduct criminal investigations into all suspected deaths and allegations of torture and sexual violence against children housed in residential schools, and the perpetrators and disguises who may still be alive, prosecuted, and punished,” they said at the time.
Indigenous community leaders have also called on police to file criminal charges against the Canadian government, churches and individual perpetrators of crimes committed in the institutions. Others have urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigation begins.