Native Women's Association of Canada seeks criminal charges against governments and churches

The association also wants a declaration that the sites of all former Indian residential schools are "crime scenes"

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      An organization representing Indigenous women wants the attorney general of Canada, David Lametti, to take action in response the location of 751 unmarked graves near a former residential school in Saskatchewan.

      In a letter, the Native Women's Association of Canada has demanded that a declaration that the sites of all Indian residential schools are "crime scenes". This would be followed by investigations to determine how each Indigenous child died and who was responsible.

      "In addition, we are demanding that charges be laid against people still living who are found to be the perpetrators of these crimes, including the members of the religious orders that ran the schools, as well as the governments and the churches that we know to be complicit," the NWAC states on its website.

      It notes that there are already firsthand witness accounts of torture and abuse at residential schools, which were presented to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as part of an agreement to settle civil lawsuits.

      "The law does not allow those who are responsible for the deaths of children to walk free with impunity," the NWAC maintains.

      In a message to Canadians, the NWAC states: "I ask you to take a moment to think about what it would be like to have men of a different race and culture, men who may not even have spoken your language, arrive at your door to force the children from your arms and to take them far away to a school where they could be subjected to all manner of assault. I ask you to think how you would feel when the other children from your village arrived home at Christmas or the end of the school year but your beloved child was not among them."

      It also points out on its website that the TRC report included an entire chapter devoted to missing children and unmarked graves.

      "That report says, in some cases, nearly 50 per cent of the students who were sent to a school died there before they graduated," the NWAC adds. "Murray Sinclair, the Chief Commissioner of that inquiry, has estimated that the total number of deaths at the schools could number 6,000."

      The NWAC expects many more bodies to be found as searches take place on the grounds of other residential schools in Canada.

      "We ask Canadians to be as outraged by this latest discovery of bodies near Saskatoon, and of those discoveries yet to come, as they were when they first heard the news out of Kamloops," the NWAC says. "We ask Canadians to stop themselves from becoming desensitized to these horrors and the suffering of our children, experiences that those who survived are still living every day. We ask that this anger and revulsion remain strong.

      "Because only when those emotions are shared by all who walk this land—the Indigenous people and those whose roots are on different continents—can we begin the process of reconciliation."