Students at St. Paul's Indian Industrial School, Middlechurch, Manitoba, 1901 (Image: Library and Archives Canada)
Grassroots activists are staging a national day of protest today calling on the Canadian government to release all documents pertaining to the treatment of aboriginal children in residential schools.
The protest, named "Honour The Apology," is being organized by Wab Kinew, Director of Indigenous Inclusion at the University of Winnipeg, Andrea Landry, a master's student at the University of Windsor, and representatives of the Idle No More movement.
The day of protest comes after last week's publication of new research showing that at least 1,300 aboriginal people, many of them children, were unknowingly subjected to government-run nutritional experiments in the 1940s and '50s.
Last week, the federal government released a statement saying, in part, "if this story is true, this is abhorrent and completely unacceptable."
In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued an official statement of apology on behalf of the Canadian government for the treatment of aboriginal children in residential schools.
In the apology, he calls residential schools "a sad chapter in our history," and said "there is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian Residential Schools system."
Rallies are planned across the country today, on reserves and in cities and towns. Petitions will be on hand demanding the release of "all documents pertaining to the residential schools in Canada."
The chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC) Justice Murray Sinclair and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt have both expressed optimism that the government can turn over the relevant documents to the TRC before its mandate expires in July 2014.
But according to Library and Archives Canada, it could cost an estimated $40 million and take 10 years to retrieve and digitize all the related documents.
"I think that it's integral that they release these documents to the TRC," Andrea Landry told the Montreal Gazette.
"They made the apology ... now it's a matter of walking the talk and following through."
The event is listed on the Idle No More website, along with a call for "people of all faiths and backgrounds to attend and participate."
There is a moment of silence planned from 12pm-1pm (local time) today, and people are talking about the event on Twitter using the hashtag #HonourTheApology.
Wab Kinew Tweeted that he will be fasting today.
24 hours from now I will be fasting to #HonourTheApology and the survivors of Residential Schools and nutrition experiments. Please join me— Wab Kinew (@WabKinew) July 24, 2013
Kinew's father and all of his uncles attended St. Mary's residential school in B.C. during the time when one of the nutrition experiments was happening there.
"I thought: how can this have happened? How my dad and my uncles and these people I grew up with have been guinea pigs?" he told Canada.com.
Kinew was on the show this season, and he spoke about his father's brutal experience in the residential school system.
Here's what's happening in some spots across Canada (click the links for details):