Warning: the following statement may be triggering as it contains references to genocide of Indigenous Peoples and the ongoing legacy of residential schools.
(June 28, 2021 – Iqaluit, Nunavut) Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) extends its solemn solidarity with the members of the Cowessess First Nation and the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations on the discovery of the remains of 751 children at the site of a former residential school in Saskatchewan.
“We send our love to Cowessess First Nation, our hearts go out to the survivors and their families in the region, as well as all Survivors of the residential school systems and Indigenous communities everywhere that are deeply impacted by this news,” said Aluki Kotierk, President of NTI.
“The discoveries of further unmarked burial sites of so many innocent children at a former residential school confirms what Indigenous peoples have been relaying for decades, that the Government of Canada and the Catholic Church committed cultural genocide of First Nations, Metis and Inuit through its assimilation and colonization policies,” said Aluki Kotierk, President of NTI.
Inuit across the Arctic were subjected to the same forced attendance of residential schools jointly operated by the Anglican and Catholic Churches and the Government of Canada, beginning in 1926, up until the end of 1997.
Although the Anglican Church, the Catholic Church of Canada, and the Government of Canada formally apologized for their dark legacies, the confirmation of further discoveries reveals that true reconciliation requires ongoing accountability and commitments, including an official apology from the Pope of the Catholic Church. There were at least three large residential schools operated by the Roman Catholic Church in the North, including the Immaculate Conception in Aklavik, the Grollier Hall in Inuvik and the Turquetil Hall in Chesterfield Inlet.
Many Inuit residential school survivors and their parents have passed on without ever having heard an official apology, nor compensation or even acknowledgement of the harms committed by the legacies of residential schools. But today, there are many survivors and parents alive who remember the experiences of shame, belittlement, isolation, and confusion caused by unspeakable abuse on the hands of priests and nuns that ran the residential schools. None of the priests and nuns were ever held accountable or criminally charged, even when former students began having the courage to share their stories in the 1990s on to today. Inuit fully understand the silence, secrecy and unwillingness of the Catholic Church and Government of Canada to acknowledge the cultural genocide endured by First Nations, Metis and Inuit across Canada, as they have continued and advocated for full accountability for a very long time.
In early 2019, Kivalliq Hall became recognized as a residential school under the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement. This changes the commonly referenced date for the closure of residential schools from 1996 to December 31, 1997. Students completed the school year at Kivalliq Hall under the Government of the Northwest Territories.
NTI encourages Inuit residential school survivors and their families to access mental health, emotional and cultural support available through the Indian Residential Schools Health Resolution Support Program that includes counselling in Inuktut through partnership with Nunavut wellness organizations; the 24-hours a day crisis line is 1-(866)-925-4419. Inuit may also call the Hope for Wellness Helpline, 1-(855)-242-3310, which has counselling in Inuktitut.
For further information:
A/Director of Communications
Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated
Tel: (867) 975-4900/Toll-free: 1-888-646-0006