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There’s no denying it: Indigenous children suffered and died at residential schools

September 22, 2023 | Statements

USW directors’ statement for September 30, National Orange Shirt Day and National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

The United Steelworkers union (USW) is committed to working for reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. We know there can be no reconciliation without acknowledging the truth of what happened at residential schools.

Between the late 1800s and 1996, more than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children attended Indian residential schools, as a policy of the federal government. Separated from families and communities, they were forbidden from speaking their languages or practising their cultures. Many were poorly nourished and experienced physical and sexual abuse. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimated that more than 6,000 children died while at residential schools.

Steelworkers recognize that education is key for our path towards reconciliation. Unionism on Turtle Island, offered to non-Indigenous Steelworkers, has become one of the most popular courses in our union’s education program. By learning more about Indigenous peoples and our shared history, USW members are taking further steps in strengthening our relationships with Indigenous communities, working for justice and supporting reconciliation.

On September 30 and throughout the year, the USW will engage and educate our members about what happened at residential schools. We know that, despite the evidence of survivors and the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, some people still deny that Indigenous children were systematically harmed.

In early October this year, Steelworkers will join members of other unions to lobby federal politicians on a range of issues important to Indigenous people, including providing funding to search for the missing remains of all children who died at residential schools.

Wearing an orange shirt on September 30 – and any day of the year – is a way to acknowledge the truth and assert that “Every Child Matters.”

In solidarity,

Marty Warren
National Director

Scott Lunny
District 3 Director

Dominic Lemieux
District 5 Director

Myles Sullivan
District 6 Director

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