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Canadian Nurses Association statement on the discovery of the remains of 215 children in British Columbia

May 29, 2021 — The board of directors, staff, and members of the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) are deeply saddened by the news that the remains of 215 children have been found at the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School in the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation. “We cannot imagine the cruelty inflicted on children in this and other residential schools,” said Tim Guest, CNA’s president, “and we know this barbaric finding will re-ignite trauma for many Indigenous people. We offer our deepest condolences to Chief Rosanne Casimir, her community, and all relations who will be affected by this atrocity.”

Finding these remains confirms the worst fears of many Indigenous people who have long asked what happened to their children who never came home. Michael Villeneuve, the chief executive officer of CNA, noted that “this discovery seems unthinkable, but tragically this is only the latest finding of children who died in residential schools. Indigenous people have talked about this crime for decades. Sadly, it is not lost on us that it comes just as a coroner’s inquest investigates the racist and inhumane treatment of an Indigenous adult, Joyce Echaquan, in Quebec. The violence goes on.”

CNA supports the Indigenous community and is working to respond meaningfully to the calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. “We are striving to understand our own history, and to find the best way to be allies for change in health-care that can help address these continuing traumas facing Indigenous people in Canada,” said Guest. “We have put several structures and programs in place to educate our board and staff and to help us not only de-colonize our structures but to work with other organizations to do the work that will make health systems safe places for all Indigenous people. We have to act now, and with determination because six years after the tabling of the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we are all still living with these reprehensible injustices.”

After meeting with leaders of prominent national nursing organizations in late 2020, including the Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association, CNA has drafted a Nursing Declaration Against Anti-Indigenous Racism in Nursing and Health Care and will encourage all nursing associations to sign on and then act collectively and forcefully. Moreover, CNA is working with a series of visiting Indigenous leaders to help inform its decisions and actions. Guests include Kerri Nuku, Maori lead of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation; Elder Aline LaFlamme from British Columbia, and this fall, the Honourable Murray Sinclair. By seeking and sharing knowledge from those with lived experiences, CNA is determined to enhance its own capacity to influence change in health systems.

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About the Canadian Nurses Association
The Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) is the national and global professional voice of Canadian nursing. We represent registered nurses, nurse practitioners, licensed and registered practical nurses, registered psychiatric nurses and retired nurses across all 13 provinces and territories.

For more information, please contact:
Eve Johnston
Media and Communications Advisor
Canadian Nurses Association
Cell: 613-282-7859
Email: ejohnston@cna-aiic.ca