Tseshaht First Nation calls on governments, churches to implement 26 Calls for Truth and Justice

Click to play video: 'Potential unmarked graves found at Port Alberni residential school'
Potential unmarked graves found at Port Alberni residential school
The Tseshaht First Nation on Vancouver Island says a new scan has revealed seventeen potential unmarked graves. But interviews with survivors, plus records and other documents, show at least 67 students died at the school over a period of decades. Kylie Stanton reports – Feb 21, 2023

WARNING: This story contains details that may be distressing to some readers.

c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) First Nation is calling on all levels of government, and both the Presbyterian Church of Canada and the United Church of Canada, to implement 26 Calls for Truth and Justice to support healing for survivors and victims of Alberni Indian Residential School and residential schools in Canada.

The call comes after 18 months of work by members of ʔuuʔatumin yaqckwiimitqin (Doing It for Our Ancestors) that revealed at least 67 children died while at Alberni Indian Residential School and ground penetrating radar that revealed at least 17 geophysical features representing suspected graves.

At a press conference last week, Tseshaht Elected Chief Councillor Wahmeesh (Ken Watts) stressed the importance that not only the number should be taken from the Nation’s announcement.

“This isn’t just another number. For survivors, this is the truth they’ve been sharing from the very beginning,” he said.

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“Knowing that some children never made it home. This is verifying what they’ve always known.”

In an open letter put out yesterday, the Nation emphasized that their 26 Calls for Truth and Justice will “ensure any further investigations into what happened at this ‘school’ are done independently and that Survivors, their families and our community are given the wellness support they need.”

Some of the Calls for Truth and Justice include the need for: further independent legal investigations; require ongoing commitment to health and wellness supports for survivors and their families; commit funding for Nations/caretaker communities to do research into student deaths; review the previous Indian residential school settlement to determine the impacts on student deaths; for Canada, churches/faiths and RCMP to consider an updated apology; develop a “Truth for Youth” age-appropriate curriculum for K-12 focused on those who did not make it home.

And this isn’t the first time the government has been called on to implement calls. In 2015 the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation released their 94 Calls to Action — Canada has only completed between 13 and 17.

In 2019, the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry released their 231 Calls for Justice, for which advocates say progress is a “national shame.”

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Read all of Tseshaht’s Calls for Truth and Justice here.

The community says that these calls are important for ensuring Canadians continue to learn the truth of what happened at residential schools and to Indigenous people for generations.

“There is no reconciliation without truth and there can be no change without justice,” the letter reads. “Survivors have made it clear that ‘you cannot have reconciliation without truth, and justice and accountability must occur.'”

The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program has a hotline to help residential school survivors and their relatives suffering trauma invoked by the recall of past abuse. The number is 1-866-925-4419.

The Hope for Wellness Help Line provides immediate, toll-free telephone and online-chat based emotional support and crisis intervention to all Indigenous Peoples in Canada. This service is available 24/7 in English and French, and upon request in Cree, Ojibway, and Inuktitut.

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Trained counsellors are available by phone at 1-855-242-3310 or by online chat at

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