Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, October 31, 2021 at 06:45 EDT
OTTAWA – The national head of the Assembly of First Nations says another symbolic gesture must be made to recognize the genocide of native children if Canada wants to hoist its flag.
RoseAnne Archibald says ideas for such an expression will be discussed when the organization’s board meets this week, adding that national Inuit and Metis leaders should also be involved.
Questions about what to do with the national flag have surfaced in the time leading up to Remembrance Day, an occasion where it has traditionally been lowered to half-staff as a tribute to soldiers who died while serving Canada.
Flags at the Peace Tower at Parliament Hill and other federal buildings have been flying at half-mast since late May, but The Royal Canadian Legion says it plans to hoist the flag at the Ottawa National War Memorial on November 11 before lowering it immediately. to half rod again.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau requested the lowering of national flags after Tk’emlups te Secwepemc nation announced that ground-penetrating radar detected what are believed to be the remains of 215 native children at a former residential school in Kamloops, BC
Weeks later, Cowessess First Nation near Regina revealed that it found 751 unmarked graves, prompting native leaders and many non-native Canadians to redouble their calls to Ottawa to help provide justice for residential school survivors.
“You can’t just hoist the flags and replace it with nothing,” Archibald told The Canadian Press in an interview Saturday.
“It’s a great disgrace to me and would be a great disgrace and would be hurtful to all the children we have not yet found.”
Archibald said “a symbolic gesture must be found if the flags are to be hoisted.”
Such an action must be meaningful, Archibald said, adding that AFN believes some form of symbol should remain in place in the long run because there are many former residential school sites that have not yet been searched for unmarked graves.
It is estimated that more than 4,000 native children died while being forced to attend church-run, government-funded institutions, where thousands more suffered physical and sexual abuse, neglect and malnutrition.
The 2015 report by the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was based on testimonies from thousands of former students, said the system, which operated for more than 120 years, perpetuated a “cultural genocide” against survivors.
Archibald said there are well over 130 of these “assimilation and genocide” institutions left to investigate.
“We have a long way to go,” she said.
“These children deserve to be found, named and buried with proper ceremony and returned, either physically or ceremonially, to their homelands. This is a very important thing for us as First Nations people.”
As for November 11, it is up to Trudeau whether he will raise the flag.
The Royal Canadian Legion has indicated it will hoist the flag at the National War Memorial on Remembrance Day morning before lowering it again during a scheduled ceremony to honor the dead. The flag will then be presented to this year’s Silver Cross mother, who represents the mothers of the soldiers who died in military service.
The Legion has recommended branches across Canada to hoist the flag before their individual ceremonies, but a spokeswoman says the decision to do so is up to them.
The Legion has the power to control what happens to the flag at the National War Memorial that day because it is responsible for the annual ceremony on site.
After November 11, it is again up to the government to decide at what height the flag is waving at the memorial.
Canadian Heritage says the flags at government buildings and the Peace Tower remain lowered in memory of native children who died while attending schools, as well as survivors and their families.
The ministry said Friday that unless the prime minister decides to put the flag back to full pole before Memorial Day, it will remain at half pole that day instead of being hoisted up and lowered to half pole again.
Trudeau has previously said he would keep the national flag lowered in federal locations until indigenous peoples are ready to see it hoisted.
Conservatives feel differently. Opposition leader Erin O’Toole, who served in the Air Force, said it was time to hoist the flag because there are many reasons to be proud of Canada and to raise the national symbol should be seen as a sign that the country is committing. to build a better future.