Seeking justice for the cultural genocide inflicted on First Nations through Canada's residential institution system.

Our Work We pursue justice and healing for the families and survivors of residential institutions.

The discoveries of the remains of children at former Indian Residential School sites has opened new questions on what Canada is doing about unmarked graves and intergenerational impacts from Residential Schools. The AFN’s Rights & Justice Sector seeks accountability and culturally-appropriate healing supports for First Nations, and to mend their relationship with Canada.

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Between the 1860s and 1990s, over 150,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children were sent to live at Indian Residential Schools.

The Canadian government removed these children from their families and required them to attend residential institutions operated by religious organizations.

Children attending Indian Residential Schools suffered poor living conditions and horrific abuse.

Many children were inadequately fed, clothed, and housed. Their languages and cultural practices were prohibited. Many were abused, physically, emotionally, and sexually.

The pain and trauma of the Indian Residential School system continues to affect our communities.

Indian residential institutions are a catalyst for racism in Canada. Survivors and families continue to ask the AFN and Canada for support.

The effect of Indian Residential School attendance is intergenerational.

According to a recent study at Laval University Effects of Residential Schools on Health and Socio-economic status.on health is achieving a lower education level.

Initiatives & Priorities The policy areas, initiatives and committees driving change for the families and survivors of Canada's residential institution system.

Vatican Visit Delegation

A delegation of Residential School survivors and leaders traveled to Rome to meet with Pope Francis on March 31, 2022, to seek justice for genocide in Catholic-run residential institutions, including to seek an apology to be delivered in Canada.

On April 1, 2022, Pope Francis jointly addressed the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit delegations and apologized for the role Catholics had in operating residential institutions, and asked for forgiveness of Indigenous peoples.

The delegations were organized and sponsored by the Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), and provided the Pope the opportunity to, “listen and to offer space for the painful stories shared by the survivors,” and to address the ongoing trauma and suffering faced by Indigenous Peoples to this day, especially after news broke of the discovery of mass graves in the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

The Delegation

  • AFN NWT Regional Chief Gerald Antoine
    Dene Nation, Delegation Lead
  • Dr. Wilton Littlechild
    Ermineskin Cree Nation, Alberta Representative
  • Fred Kelly
    Ojibways of Onigaming First Nation, Spiritual Advisor
  • Phil Fontaine
    Sagkeeng First Nation, Manitoba Representative
  • John Bekale
    Dene Nation, Northwest Territories Representative
  • Adeline Webber
    Kukhhiittan Clan of the Teslin Tlingit Nation, Yukon Representative
  • Kukpi Chief Rosanne Casimir
    Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, British Columbia Representative
  • Chief Marie-Anne Day Walker-Pelletier
    Okanese First Nation, Saskatchewan Representative
  • Marlene Cloud
    Chippewas of Kettle & Stony Point First Nation, Ontario Representative
  • Grand Chief Mindy Gull-Masty
    Grand Chief of the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee, Quebec Representative
  • Rosalie LaBilloise
    Eel River First Nation, New Brunswick Representative
  • Marlene Thomas
    Lennox Island First Nation, Prince Edward Island Representative
  • Phyllis Googoo
    Waycobah First Nation, Nova Scotia & Newfoundland Representative
  • Taylor Behn-Tsakoza
    Fort Nelson First Nation, Youth Representative

Nation Chief's Address upon Papal Visit

On May 17, 2022, the Vatican officially announced the Papal Visit to Canada to visit the cities of Edmonton, Quebec, and Iqaluit from July 25-29, 2022. Pope Francis made a “pilgrimage of penance” across Turtle Island to coincide with annual pilgrimages made by Catholics to holy places of worship in Canada.

At sites in Maskwacis, Quebec, and Iqaluit, Pope Francis delivered penitential speeches to First Nations, Inuit and Métis people, but stopped short of denouncing the Catholic Church’s role in creating systems that spiritually, culturally, emotionally, physically, and sexually abused and killed First Nations, Inuit and Métis children. Pope Francis also failed to address Calls to Action to renounce and formally revoke the “Inter Caetera” 1493 Doctrine of Discovery, to return diocese land back to First Nations, and to return sacred items currently being held both in storage and on public display at the Vatican, as an essential step for advancing reconciliation and the healing path forward.

National Chief Roseanne Archibald addressed survivors at the Maskwacis Papal Visit, and her full statement can be read here: National Chief Roseanne Archibald’s Message to Survivors at Maskwacis Papal Visit

Investigation into Unmarked Graves

The discoveries of the remains of 215 children at the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School and the estimated 751 unmarked graves on the grounds of the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan has opened new questions on what Canada is doing about this matter.

More than a year after the initial announcement of the discovery at Kamloops Indian Residential School, First Nations continue to conduct ground searches for the unmarked graves of their lost loved ones. The federal government and the church entities must fully cooperate and work in full partnership with all First Nations who wish to undertake ground searches at former residential school sites. The AFN is advocating for the disclosure of all documents that are in the possession of the federal government and Catholic Church entities.

In accordance with emergency Resolutions 01/2021 and 02/2021, the AFN is calling for an investigation by an international representative or rapporteur into the unmarked graves found at former residential school sites.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls for Action

In its final report, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) instructed governments, educational and religious institutions, civil society groups and all Canadians to take on the 94 Calls to Action (CTA). As per Resolution 01/2015, Support for the Full Implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action, Chiefs-in-Assembly call on Federal, Provincial, Territorial and Municipal Governments to take immediate steps to fully implement all the Calls to Action.

The AFN generates a TRC Report Card to monitor progress on the full and meaningful implementation of all the Calls to Action.

Documents The latest resources on this topic.

View All 15 Documentsarrow_forward

These are our latest reports, resolutions and other documents related to Residential Institutions & Reconciliation. To see more related documents, and all other public AFN documents, visit the Document Library.

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