Warning to readers: this writing discusses residential schools and systemic racism against Indigenous communities. 

Correction: this reading originally cited a “mass unmarked grave” at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation has since clarified the remains of 215 children were found in unmarked grave sites. This statement has been amended to reflect this information.

Tomorrow, June 21, is Indigenous Peoples Day.

We at Ecojustice honour and celebrate the enduring leadership, resilience, and strength of the many distinct Indigenous Peoples and Nations of the territories we call Canada.

To the Indigenous-identifying staff and board members, clients, partners, and supporters in our community: You matter. We celebrate your existence. We hold space for your grief and sorrow. And we stand with you in your calls for truth, reconciliation, justice, and accountability.

The urgency of these calls has intensified in the weeks since the horrific confirmation that the bodies of 215 children — each of whom were forcibly removed from their homes — were found buried at an unmarked grave site at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. Similar searches at other former school sites (at least 139 such schools operated in Canada) are likely to surface more grim findings.

The residential school system represents just one facet of a strategic, racist policy by the Canadian state to extinguish Indigenous Peoples and their cultures, knowledge, and ways of being.

This policy pre-dates confederation yet persists today, hidden in plain sight.

From healthcare (Joyce Echaquan), to law enforcement (the thousands of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit people), to the justice system (Colten Bushie), systemic racism in Canada continues to kill Indigenous Peoples. Canada cannot put this “dark chapter” behind us when its legacy is still being written today.

Indigenous Peoples have long been frontline defenders of the earth in the face of rampant industrialization. Yet they bear disproportionate environmental burdens — from the desecration of their traditional hunting grounds to unsafe drinking water on reserves to aggravated impacts from the climate crisis in the North.

In spite of these structural barriers, Indigenous Peoples continue to organize, to rise, and to thrive in a profound act of resistance and resilience. This is what we celebrate on June 21.

Ecojustice gratefully acknowledges that Indigenous leadership directly informs our mission to defend nature, combat the climate emergency, and fight for a healthy environment for all.

From stopping pipelines and fighting coal mining, to protecting caribou and salmon, we affirm that the fight for Indigenous rights and self-determination and Ecojustice’s pursuit of justice and accountability are interconnected.

Ecojustice has integrated the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action into our forthcoming strategic plan, and we will endeavor to ensure our work is consistent with and advances reconciliation wherever possible. We are committed to doing the work to decolonize ourselves and encourage members of the broader Ecojustice community to join us.

In celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day, Ecojustice and our staff have made donations to: