The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Children’s Mass Grave Discovered

Jun 21, 2021

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

The discovery of the remains of 215 children—most likely Native—in the Canadian province of British Columbia shook the country.

The gruesome discovery was made in Kamloops, a city in the Rockies. The site had housed one of Canada’s 130 so-called residential schools. The government set up this “educational” network in 1870, and the last school was closed in 1996.

These residential schools were meant for the children of the Native tribes that once populated Canada from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific and the Arctic. The government claimed to provide the children an education by entrusting them to Christian congregations. In fact, this took them away from their parents and their tribes and cut them off from their native languages and cultures.

In 2015, an official commission investigated child abuse. The commission confirmed that 51 children had died at Kamloops between 1914 and 1963. The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc tribe suspected there were many more victims and kept looking for them. Their findings were finally made public on May 27. The commission identified more than 4,000 children who died at these schools, and possibly as many as 6,000. The commission’s president even raised the possibility of 15,000 victims.

For over a century, the Canadian state barely funded these residential schools. The children went hungry and were punished for speaking their native languages. Beatings and sexual abuse were rampant. The youngest victim was three years old.

On news of the Kamloops mass grave discovery, tribes across Canada expressed their anger. Provincial governors and mayors responded by lowering their flags. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau assured the tribes he was “doing the right thing” to alleviate their suffering. But Canadian authorities cannot claim they were unaware of the consequences of the racist policies the state pursued, first as a colony and then as an independent country. As early as 1909, a doctor sent the government a report alerting it to the very high death rates at these schools. The ill-treatment continued—as did the oppression and plunder of Native tribes more generally.

Saddened speeches by modern authorities can’t erase the crimes of the past.