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Vancouver mayor says Canada has a 'legacy of genocide'

The statement follows the discovery of the remains of over 200 children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School
ResidentialSchool3
The residential school in Kamloops where the remains of over 200 children were recently found.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart is adding his name to the list of politicians calling what happened to Canada's Indigenous population genocide.

In a statement tweeted Sunday, Stewart said the city, province and nation should mourn after the discovery of the bodies of over 200 children buried at the site was announced by the Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc (TtS) last week. Vancouver's mayor also calls residential schools "an instrument of genocide."

"We should continue to mourn the legacy of violence and genocide against Indigenous people," he said in the statement, adding that the federal government needs to fund the TtS's efforts to identify the remains and make sure they are returned to their families and places they were from.

"But mourning is not enough. We must continue to seek the full truth of what happened at these so-called schools, as well as other systems of oppression created by our government to destroy Indigenous peoples," he says.

The Kamloops location was one of the largest in Canada; children from across the province were taken from their families and watched over by the Catholic Church. Stewart notes that that includes members of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam).

Stewart adds he's taking the issue to the province's Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Murray Rankin to discuss how the province and city can implement the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and "reckon with the full history of genocide in Canada."

While not initially used to describe what happened to the Indigenous peoples of Canada, the term genocide has become more common in recent years; notably the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada called what happened a "cultural genocide."

"The Canadian government pursued this policy of cultural genocide because it wished to divest itself of its legal and financial obligations to Aboriginal people and gain control over their land and resources," states a portion of the introduction of the summary. "If every Aboriginal person had been 'absorbed into the body politic,' there would be no reserves, no Treaties, and no Aboriginal rights."

When the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girl finished Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government accepted the findings and recognized what happened amounted to genocide.

After last week's announcement NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said the genocide is ongoing.

With files from Graeme Wood