National | Media Release

Mourning the 215 Children Found in Unmarked Graves at Residential School Site, We Commit to Decolonization

Le français suit  

The National Farmers Union expresses our grief in solidarity with the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc community and all Indigenous nations and survivors of residential schools. The events unfolding in the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc territory, where the bodies of 215 children were found in unmarked graves, deeply horrify and anger us. As an organization with membership of predominantly settler farmers and allies, we recognize that we have a responsibility to challenge on-going settler colonialism and the genocide of Indigenous peoples in Canada. 

In particular, we strongly support the calls for an Indigenous-led, government funded inquiry into the undocumented deaths and burials on sites of residential schools, in line with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action 71-76. We also support calls for the federal government to fund care centres and other forms of support for residential school survivors and their families.

We recognize that this is an especially important time for us to listen and centre the voices of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples. This is a time for us to deepen our understanding of Indigenous dispossession, and reflect on the paradigms of land ownership and commodification that undermine Indigenous food sovereignty, governance, and kinship systems. The actions we take on a daily basis can make a difference, and we need to hold governments, those around us, and ourselves to account for perpetuating systemic racism and injustice. 

We are writing this open letter not only to mourn with, but also to uplift voices calling for reconciliation and decolonization. As a start, we call on all our members to immediately take any of the following actions:

  • Learn about the impacts of the Indian residential school system, and read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report and the Calls to Actions  {Note:  After 5 years, implementation has not even begun on 60 of the 94 Calls to Action}
  • Contact your MP and local officials to implement TRC’s Articles 71-76
  • Learn about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit People and read the MMIWG National Inquiry report 
  • If you are able to, financially support Indigenous-led organizations
  • Consider donating to the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Indian Residential School Survivors Society
  • Join monthly discussions of the NFU’s Indigenous Solidarity Working Group where we aim to meaningfully engage with issues of settler-colonialism including settler responsibility and relationship building, solidarity, reparations and the re-matriation of Indigenous land. 
  • Actively listen to people of First Nations, Inuit and Métis backgrounds
  • Stand up to stereotypes, prejudice and systemic racism
  • Have conversations with your family and friends (even children)
  • Be respectful towards trauma survivors and elders
  • Be patient, empathetic and receptive
  • Raise awareness in your community and online (wear orange,

For those in need of support:

IRSSS Toll-Free Line: 1-800-721-0066

24-Hour National Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419

KUU-US Crisis Line: 1-800-588-8717

Tsow-Tun-Le Lum: 1-866-925-4419

In solidarity,

The National Farmers Union


Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action on Missing Children and Burial Information:

  1. We call upon all chief coroners and provincial vital statistics agencies that have not provided to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada their records on the deaths of Aboriginal children in the care of residential school authorities to make these documents available to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
  2. We call upon the federal government to allocate sufficient resources to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to allow it to develop and maintain the National Residential School Student Death Register established by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
  3. We call upon the federal government to work with churches, Aboriginal communities, and former residential school students to establish and maintain an online registry of residential school cemeteries, including, where possible, plot maps showing the location of deceased residential school children
  4. We call upon the federal government to work with the churches and Aboriginal community leaders to inform the families of children who died at residential schools of the child’s burial location, and to respond to families’ wishes for appropriate commemoration ceremonies and markers, and reburial in home communities where requested.
  5. We call upon the federal government to work with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, churches, Aboriginal communities, former residential school students, and current landowners to develop and implement strategies and procedures for the ongoing identification, documentation, maintenance, commemoration, and protection of residential school cemeteries or other sites at which residential school children were buried. This is to include the provision of appropriate memorial ceremonies and commemorative markers to honour the deceased children.
  6. We call upon the parties engaged in the work of documenting, maintaining, commemorating, and protecting residential school cemeteries to adopt strategies in accordance with the following principles:

i. The Aboriginal community most affected shall lead the development of such strategies.

ii. Information shall be sought from residential school Survivors and other Knowledge Keepers in the development of such strategies.

iii. Aboriginal protocols shall be respected before any potentially invasive technical inspection and investigation of a cemetery site.


Canada’s Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Volume 4

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, National Inquiry 

National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report 

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action


Translation is funded in part by the Government of Canada.