June 11, 2021
The Ontario Association of Child Protection Lawyers (the “OACPL”) honours and mourns the loss of the 215 First Nations children who died at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, built on the territory of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation. Our thoughts go out to the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, the survivors of the residential school system, and the children and families of survivors of the residential school system and those who did not make it back.
The OACPL recognizes that this ineffable loss is part of Canada’s history of cultural genocide that continues to the present day. As recognized by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, between the 1870s and the 1990s, more than 150,000 First Nations, Metis and Inuit children were forced to attend residential schools. More than 6,000 children, approximately 1 in 50 of all children, died while attending residential schools. The true figure could exceed 15,000. Each of these deaths is tragic, unacceptable and unnecessary. This loss demands accountability and action from child welfare agencies, the government of Ontario and the federal government.
It is the position of the OACPL that reconciliation requires transparency, disclosure and accountability. The OACPL echoes calls by First Nations, Inuit and Metis leaders and communities for a nationwide inquiry for unmarked graves at residential schools. The OACPL calls on the federal and provincial government to fully implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action to ensure the full disclosure of records as relate to missing children and children deceased within the residential school system.
On behalf of child welfare defence counsel in Ontario, the OACPL recognizes the colonialist history of the child welfare system in Ontario and in Canada as the inheritor of the residential school system. The intentional underfunding of the child welfare services for Indigenous communities by the federal government has been recognized as discriminatory and reflects the institutionalization of racism within the child welfare system. The OACPL calls for the federal government to end its outstanding litigation against the First Nations Caring Society disputing the damages arising from these discriminatory policies.
The OACPL upholds that transparency and accountability in the child welfare system is necessary to reconciliation. First Nations, Metis and Inuit children continue to face major inequities, disproportionate representation, and discrimination within the child welfare system. The OACPL calls on child welfare agencies and on the federal and provincial governments to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action in the child welfare system, including but not limited to the preparation and publication of an annual report on the number of First Nations, Inuit and Metis children in care and the reasons for apprehension.
The OACPL represents child protection defence counsel throughout Ontario. We are a voice for a fair and just child protection system where the rights of parents, families and children are respected and protected.