We grieve for Indigenous families of Missing Children 

June 25, 2021

We are deeply saddened by yesterday’s announcement about the preliminary finding of 751 unmarked graves at a cemetery near the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan. We extend our deepest condolences to the affected families, communities, Cowessess First Nation, and all residential and day school survivors.

This tragic discovery follows last month’s announcement by the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in B.C. of the remains of 215 children who died at Kamloops Indian Residential School. 

In what Indigenous leaders are calling “a crime against humanity,” we acknowledge that it is likely that many more tragic discoveries of Missing Children will surface as hundreds more unmarked graves and burial sites are investigated. We grieve for the thousands of families who have been waiting for their children to come home and for the legacy of trauma inflicted upon Indigenous peoples. 

This latest discovery reconfirms the devastating impacts of the Indian Residential School system on Indigenous families and communities across Canada. To honour these children and those who have not been found, we call on residents of Elgin and Middlesex to join us in our commitment to listening, learning, and unlearning.

Indigenous families and communities have long borne the burden of the residential school system alone, speaking out about the trauma this system caused and working to identify those who did not survive.

We have a responsibility as a non-Indigenous organization to increase our own understanding and help dismantle the legacy of colonialism. Now is the time for us as a colonial organization to recognize the ongoing racism against Indigenous Peoples across Canada and commit to learning and action, including continuing to advocate to all levels of government to implement the TRC calls to action. 

As a local United Way residing on the traditional territory of the Attawandaron, Anishinaabeg, Haudenosaunee, and Lunaapeewak peoples and the current home of Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, Oneida Nation of the Thames, Munsee-Delaware Nation, and the growing urban Indigenous population in London and St. Thomas, we acknowledge we have much work to do. We commit to being uncomfortable and calling out racism wherever we see it, in all its forms, particularly against Indigenous peoples.

Join us as we explore these resources on our continued learning journey:

Read or re-read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report and commit to the calls to action https://t.co/Kpqaqbf3sn?amp=1 

Educate yourself by reviewing materials at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation https://t.co/i19Tuux7KR?amp=1 

Read the National Student Memorial Register which remembers and honours children who never returned home from residential schools https://nctr.ca/memorial/ 

Learn about the Mount Elgin Industrial School that operated in our local area https://www.cottfn.com/mt-elgin-industrial-institute-indian-residential-school/ 

If you need support 

The National Indian Residential School Crisis Line provides support for former students and those affected. Access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419

Together, we unite in condemning Islamophobia and hate 

June 15, 2021

United Way Elgin Middlesex was horrified and deeply saddened by the deadly attack on the Afzaal and Salman family. We condemn this act of Islamophobic violence, and our thoughts are with the young boy who survived while his family did not.   

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident of hate. There has been a series of attacks such as the Quebec Mosque massacre, the stabbing of a 58-year-old mosque caretaker in Mississauga, the many attacks on Hijabi women, and mosques targeted by vandals.  

These attacks follow a disturbing trend of increased hate crimes locally and nationally. The increase in hate in our region reflects a growing international influence of extreme political views and xenophobic hate groups that perpetuate intolerance, lies, and hatred against those of Muslim, Jewish and other faith groups, and against women, newcomers, Chinese, South Asian, Black and Indigenous communities, as well as the LGTBQ community and those with disabilities. 

This latest attack against a local Muslim family is an assault on our collective aspirations to build a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community here in London and in communities across the country. Yet another act of violence shows that we still have significant work to root out hate before it causes more harm.

Immediately after the attack, we reached out to our Muslim neighbours, colleagues, and friends to offer our condolences and solidarity. When we attended the vigil held on the steps of the London Muslim Mosque, the call to action from Muslim leaders was loud and clear: All levels of government across the country – federal, provincial, territorial, municipal – must come together for a National Action Summit on Islamophobia and take immediate action to dismantle Islamophobia and systemic Islamophobia.  

It was encouraging to see leaders from all parties at multiple levels of government in attendance at the vigil. It was an important demonstration of support and sympathy for a grieving community and an opportunity for us all to hear their call to action. 

We are equally encouraged that Federal and local municipal governments answered the London Muslim Mosque in their call for a National Action Summit on Islamophobia between all parties and levels of government. We believe that this summit is instrumental in moving our nation collectively beyond “thoughts and prayers” and toward meaningful action to end Islamophobia and prevent tragedies like this from happening in the future.  

We value our partnership with local Muslim-led and Muslim–serving organizations and will continue to work with them to ensure this important conversation continues. 

Together we grieve for #OurLondonFamily. Together, we unite in condemning Islamophobia, white supremacy, racism and hate in all its forms.

Dakota HalfpennySpecial Statements