MPs Charlie Angus, Mumilaaq Qaqqaq call for special prosecutor over residential school abuse
March planned for Saturday in Ottawa
Warning: This story contains distressing details.
NDP MPs Charlie Angus and Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq are calling on Canadians to join them Saturday as they march down the streets of Ottawa to pressure the government into calling an independent investigation into the residential school system.
"These were crimes against a people. These were crimes against children — there needs to be an independent investigation," Angus, who represents the riding of Timmins-James Bay, said in an interview.
"I think these crimes meet the test of international crimes against humanity. These crimes were committed to Indigenous children," said Angus. "Our attorney general needs to appoint a special prosecutor."
However, according to Attorney General David Lametti, he does not have the power to initiate criminal investigations.
"This is an exclusive power of the police," Lametti's press secretary, Chantalle Aubertin, said in an emailed statement.
Angus responded to Lametti by accusing him and the prime minister of hiding behind a technicality.
"The federal government has enormous tools that they could bring to bear," said Angus. "One of those would be referring this matter to the department of the special prosecutor, and they could then nominate a prosecutor."
Petition garners over 20,000 signatures
Calls to initiate an investigation began shortly after the detection of multiple unmarked burial sites at former residential school sites, including in B.C. and Saskatchewan.
- Do you have information about residential schools? Email your tips to: WhereAreThey@cbc.ca
In response, Angus and Qaqqaq started a petition that has garnered more than 20 000 signatures.
The petition outlines demands for the government to hire a fully funded special prosecutor who can seek advice from the International Criminal Court, and subpoena documents from Ottawa and church institutions and make those documents public.
"This story has opened the eyes of Canadians and now Canadians now expect justice," said Angus. "The lack of action from the federal government is unacceptable, so we will march."
The March for Truth and Justice takes place Saturday and will be led by Angus, Qaqqaq and Indigenous elders. Marchers will make their way to the Department of Justice from Parliament Hill, starting at noon ET.
How to get help
Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools and those triggered by the latest reports.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for residential school survivors and those affected.
People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.
- Do you know of a child who never came home from residential school? Or someone who worked at one? We would like to hear from you. Email our Indigenous-led team investigating the impacts of residential schools at email@example.com or call toll-free: 1-833-824-0800.