‘This is about our children:’ Ottawa march calls for independent investigation into residential schools

More than 500 people marched through downtown Ottawa on Saturday, calling for an independent investigation into Canada’s residential schools.

“We march for justice and truth today but it is just the beginning,” said NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq.

The MP for Nunavut and NDP MP Charlie Angus organized the “March for Truth and Justice” on Parliament Hill and in downtown Ottawa.

In a post on Instagram, Qaqqaq said the march will “demand an independent investigation into Canada’s crimes against Indigenous Peoples. Enough is enough: (Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau and (Minister of Justice) David Lametti need to stop making excuses and ensure that we have a special prosecutor.”

On Parliament Hill, Qaqqaq said the march is being held so, “Our children are not sitting here as elders asking for their basic human rights.”

“We need to stop being so selfish. This is not about us, this is about our children, this is about individuals who lived and continue to live through horrors, through traumas. This is bigger than this and this is just the beginning.”

After listening to speeches on Parliament Hill, the rally walked to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Department of Justice chanting “No Justice, No Peace!”

“Turn over those documents, expose these men. That’s why we’re here,” said Angus, accusing the federal government of hiding church documents.

Claire Sackaney from James Bay Cree First Nation said she hopes the march will push the conversation forward to find truth and justice for everyone involved.

“We’ve been trying to speak up for years, centuries and yet we haven’t been heard until these children were found.”

Standing in front of the Prime Minister’s Office on Wellington Street, Qaqqaq called for an independent investigation into Canada’s residential schools.

“We march because we know this is not right,” said Qaqqaq. “We march to right that wrong, to fulfill that injustice for our people and ourselves.”

On July 8, Qaqqaq and Angus called for the federal government to appointment a special prosecutor to investigate Canada’s residential schools after the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at school sites across the country. 

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Lametti said the federal government is committed to working with Indigenous communities across Canada.

“I have held frank and productive discussions with Indigenous leaders about the next steps the government needs to take to support Indigenous communities, particularly survivors and their families, following the horrific discovery of graves in Kamloops and Marieval,” said Lametti on Saturday.

“Our government is committed to working with affected Indigenous communities across Canada to protect graves and burial sites using all available measures, including the criminal law.”

Lametti also addressed calls for a special prosecutor to investigate Canada’s residential schools.

“While I do not have the authority to initiate criminal investigations, as this is an exclusive power of the police, we will consider all options that will allow the survivors, their communities and the country to move forward on the path to healing and reconciliation,” said Lametti.

With files from CTV News Creeson Agecoutay and the Canadian Press.

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