How can we Support Indigenous Children?

Barbed wire fence posts with teddy bears attached at a Every Child Matters display near Morley Alberta Canada

As we reflect on the history of indigenous children, we find a very difficult set of reflections and memories. For example, we were made aware of the plight of Canadian indigenous children through the recent visit of Pope Francis.

In Edmonton, Alberta he spoke to thousands of Indigenous peoples and apologized for the rampant abuse of Indigenous children by Christian missionaries in state-funded residential schools across Canada that lasted for more than a century. 

Further, the Pope pleaded for forgiveness from the community, reaffirmed his empathy for survivors, and descendants and promised an investigation into all the abuses. He stated to the crowd, “In the face of this deplorable evil, the Church kneels before God and implores his forgiveness for the sins of her children.” It is interesting to note that as he apologized, the crowd – filled with legions of survivors, elders, chiefs and leaders – erupted in applause. 

The Pope’s visit and apologies were due to recent discoveries of hundreds of remains of children who had been abused and eventually died. There is no way to calculate the actual numbers of children who have been abused. Estimates hover around 3,200 but many believe there are many more children that have died in the last century even into the 1990’s. 

In our country, we have developed systems of reporting so that child abuse, even at an individual level, will be investigated with consequences to the abusers. Yet we have global situations like this one where defenseless children have been systematically abused for decades which has left legacies of trauma with all of its horrific impact.

I have been in discussions with organizations in Canada and in other parts of the world who are helping indigenous children recover with counseling, support and trauma processing. As much as we appreciate the apologies of the Pope these organizations are the ones on the ground and that work diligently to support these children, adults and their families. The impact of this intergenerational trauma has been absolutely devastating! The financial support of these therapeutic organizations needs to be bolstered significantly if we are going to have any impact on such a child crisis. 

Since we are discovering the plight of indigenous children all over the world, I hope that governments, systems of care and religious organizations can join to provide the resources for these adults and children so that we can provide healing to situations like we have found in Canada! It is our responsibility as a global community to bring opportunities for recovery to these populations who have suffered, who are grieving and in need of our help so they can find peace and resolve.

Gerry Vassar, President/CEO

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