Content Warning: Genocide, Death, Child Abuse
This week has been difficult for many of our members as news of the graves of 215 children found at Kamloops Indian Residential School has been in the news.
As an organization we join in solidarity in calling for meaningful action. We join First Nations people in calling for a full investigation, and accountability. We call on the federal government to commit funding towards this and not to fighting survivors in court. It is important that this be done with First Nations people in leadership positions, and that the actions taken are not merely symbolic. Real change is needed to address this genocide. Real justice is needed for the survivors.
We also call on non-indigenous Autistics and the broader Disability community to understand that the struggle against colonialism, and the struggle against ableism is deeply intertwined. The infantilization of indigenous people in the Indian Act, the incarceration of indigenous children in residential schools, the over representation of indigenous people in foster care and the prison system, and the forced sterilization of indigenous women have all had their basis in white supremacist beliefs that Indigenous people are culturally and mentally inferior. These beliefs, that some types of people and some ways of thinking are superior and some are inferior are intimately connected to our own struggles against ableism. We will not be free until all of us are free. That includes our indigenous brothers and sisters. The struggle against colonialism, and the reckoning with Canada’s history of genocide, is inseparable from our struggle against eugenics and ableist discrimination. We must work make sure that Indigenous people are included in our movements, and that we stand for justice for all people.
Plain Language Summary:
This week has been hard for a lot of people.
The bodies of 215 children have been found in BC at Kamloops Indian Residential School. This story has been in the news. Many members of LAST have been having difficult emotions because of this news.
LAST is making a statement about this news story because it effects people in our community.
We are telling people to listen to First Nations People.
We are saying that there needs to be an investigation into the unmarked graves at residential schools.
We are also saying that there needs to be action. Just saying nice sounding words about it isn’t enough.
The government of Canada should fund this investigation. They shouldn’t spend their money fighting with survivors to avoid paying them compensation. Canada should be accountable for what it has done.
First Nations people should get to decide how the investigation is done. There should be First Nations people in leadership positions overseeing what gets done.
It is important that we talk about this as a genocide.
Genocide is when one group of people tries to get rid of another group of people. They might kill people from the other group, or they might do things that make it more likely that people from the other group will die. They also might try to prevent people from the other group from having babies, or they might take away the children of the other group. This is a crime according to international law.
Based on this definition Canada committed genocide against First Nations people.
There should be justice for the survivors of this genocide. The people responsible for residential schools should be held accountable.
LAST is saying that Autistic people, and Disabled people who are not Indigenous should also care about this.
Everyone should learn about what was done to Indigenous people. They should also learn about how this is connected to some of the things that happened to Disabled people.
To justify what they did to Indigenous people the Canadian government made laws like the Indian Act. The Indian Act talks about Indigenous people like children. The people who wrote these laws thought that Indigenous people were less than them because they had different cultures and different ways of thinking.
These kinds of laws have also led to other bad things being done to Indigenous people. Indigenous people are more likely to be sent to prison in Canada. Indigenous children are more likely to be taken from their families and put in foster care. Some Indigenous women had medical procedures done on them against their will to prevent them from having babies.
This kind of thinking about Indigenous people is related to some of the ways people thought about disabled people.
There was a movement called the eugenics movement which taught that disabled people, poor people and non-white people were not as good as white, neurotypical, and abled people. This movement tried to create a future where Disabled people, Neurodivergent people, and non-white people didn’t exist.
The eugenics movement isn’t popular anymore, but many of the ideas from it are still around. The ideas are just called other things now. Some people still believe these wrong ideas.
Disabled people need to stand with Indigenous people in making sure that these ideas aren’t accepted any more. This includes making sure that the idea that Indigenous people are less than white people is rejected.
We need to make sure that Indigenous people are included in the Neurodiveristy and Autistic Rights movements.
We will not be free until everyone is free.
What Can You Do?
1- Learn about the history of residential schools:
You can read survivors stories here:
2- Learn about the history of the eugenics movement:
You can read more about the eugenics movement here:
3- Listen to First Nations people when they talk about how this news is impacting them:
Some Indigenous people have spoken publicly about this and you can read what they say in the news. Other people are still processing emotions and aren’t ready to talk. It’s ok to reach out to Indigenous friends at this time. If someone wants to talk, listen. If they don’t want to talk that’s ok too. Everyone is impacted by this in their own way.
You can share articles like this one where Indigenous people talk about how this impacts them and what they want done:
4- Amplify Indigenous voices and calls to action:
You can read and share a youth guide to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action here. The guide is written in plain language:
You can read and share statements by First Nations near London:
Indigenous leaders are asking Canada to stop fighting residential school survivors in court. They are saying that those resources should go to implementing the calls to action that came out of the truth and reconciliation commission:
Some First Nations people are calling for an apology from the Catholic church:
5- Write to your Member of Parliament:
If you are comfortable communicating by text you can write your Member of Parliament or MP.
If you are in Ontario you can find your Member of Parliament here:
The MPs are listed by constituencies. A constituency refers to the people from a particular district that your MP represents.
If you aren’t sure what constituency you are part of you can find your district using this site:
The MPs for London are:
Karen Vecchio. Elgin—Middlesex—London. Karen.Vecchio@parl.gc.ca
Lianne Rood. Lambton—Kent—Middlesex. Lianne.Rood@parl.gc.ca
Peter Fragiskatos. London North Centre. Peter.Fragiskatos@parl.gc.ca
Kate Young. London West. Kate.Young@parl.gc.ca
Lindsay Mathyssen. London—Fanshawe. Lindsay.Mathyssen@parl.gc.ca
If you decide to e-mail your MP you should include:
–Where you live
–Why you are writing
–2 to 3 main points that you want to get across. These can be: why you care about this issue. Your personal experience with residential schools, or with learning about residential schools. A statement of support for First Nations people. A call for your MP to back specific calls to action like those mentioned above.
-You can also ask your MP to commit to a particular call to action and request that they respond to your letter.
-Close your letter by thanking your MP
-Sign your letter with your name, address and postal code
Citizens for Public Justice has created the following letter as an example for how to write letters to MPs:
Take Care of Yourself and Each Other:
Taking in information like this can bring up a lot of emotions. Many of us struggle with PTSD. Many Indigenous Autistic people are caring inter-generational trauma from family histories with residential schools. Many non-Indigenous Autistic people may have had traumatic experiences with institutionalization and other types of oppression that are triggered when topics like this are in the news.
It is ok to log off and take time away from the news.
Do what you need to do to take care of yourself. Don’t forget to take care of your sensory needs when encountering difficult emotions. Give yourself permission to use your favourite stims, eat your favourite foods or whatever else you need to do to process this information and emotions.
Be kind to eachother. Have grace for those who hare struggling with difficult emotions and PTSD.
If you are struggling with emotions at this time reach out. You can contact the following organizations for crisis support:
A helpline for residential school survivors can be reached at: 1-866-925-4419
Distress and Crisis Ontario: Click Chat Now on the top of the home page for text based support
LGBT Youthline: Call: 1-800-268-9688 or Text: 647-694-4275 or click to chat at the top of the homepage
Reach Out: Crisis support for anyone living with mental health or addictions concerns in Elgin, Oxford, Middlesex and London. Click the Chat Now on the website or call 519-433-2023.
At^lohsa Native Family Healing Services Crisis Phone Line: 1-800-605-7477
In Love and Solidarity,
Manidoo Makwa Kwe, Social Media Co-coordinator for LAST