Indigenous leaders demand action at residential school memorial in the Sault

There was a call for action Friday from First Nations leaders and residential school survivors gathered at the memorial in front of Shingwauk Hall at Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie. (Mike McDonald/CTV News)

There was a call for action Friday from First Nations leaders and residential school survivors gathered at the memorial in front of Shingwauk Hall at Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie.

A ceremony was held for the 215 children whose remains were discovered at a residential school site in B.C. A number of people spoke at the shoe memorial, some expressing anger.

“There’s a reckoning coming about for the churches that condoned much of this activity,” said Shirley Horn, a residential school survivor and first chancellor of Algoma University. “These people are criminals.”

Batchewana First Nation Chief Dean Sayers said he wants the world to know about Canada’s residential school history.

'Im glad the world is watching'

“I pray for an easy time for our people that are affected by those 215, which I think is just the tip of the iceberg with what’s going to be found,” said Sayers. “I’m glad the world is watching. And I’m asking the world to take note.”

Garden River First Nation Chief Andy Rickard used some of his time at the podium to say the cost of uncovering unmarked graves at former residential school sites should not fall to First Nations communities.

“We didn’t take our kids away -- the government, the church, the RCMP and others had a hand in this,” said Rickard. “Take it out of your budgets to properly take our kids home.”

Angela Trudeau-Day, president of the Shingwauk Anishinaabe Students’ Association, said the legacy of the residential school system can still be seen today.

“Can you imagine your child being ripped from you? And then abused. That currently happens in the child welfare system in some homes today,” she said.

In her remarks, Algoma University President Asima Vezina called on non-Indigenous leaders to listen to First Nations people as Canada moves forward in addressing the legacy of the residential school system.