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Statement in response to the discovery of over 750 unmarked graves in the Cowessess First Nation

HCS joins Indigenous communities and nations across Turtle Island in mourning over 750 Indigenous children and other members of the Cowessess First Nation, whose unmarked graves on the grounds of the former Marieval Indian Residential School in the Cowessess First Nation (Sask.) were unearthed this week, confirming knowledge long shared by residential school survivors and Indigenous Elders about the existence of a burial site there. We offer our heartfelt condolences to the Cowessess First Nation and all members of Indigenous communities during this time of grief and mourning.
 
This devastating confirmation comes after last month’s uncovering of the remains of 215 Indigenous children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School on the territory of the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation (BC), and is a further reminder of the enduring, inter-generational trauma of residential schools and the urgency of redressing the deep racism that Indigenous people have faced and continue to face today. We encourage all to learn more about residential schools, listen to the stories of survivors and reflect on the violence Indigenous communities continue to experience as part of Canada’s settler colonial underpinnings. We further encourage individuals to review the final summary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and calls to action to determine how we may contribute towards reconciliation, and the dismantling of anti-Indigenous racism.
 
HCS is looking forward to launching an Indigenous Graduate Fellowship in the new year that would welcome into the department cohorts of Indigenous Graduate students as mentors and mentees, and offer us a chance to reflect on our shared responsibilities as treaty people. We are already working on specific programming related to this fellowship that would offer current students, staff, and faculty opportunities to learn more about Indigenous ways of knowing and the unique histories of the land which we inhabit. We also commit ourselves to continuously integrating Indigenous perspectives, anti-racist and anti-colonial approaches to the work we do as teachers, students, researchers, and citizens.

Resources & Support
Students can access supports through the University’s Indigenous Student Services while U of T My Student Support Program (SSP) offers students 24-hour confidential support that can be accessed over the phone in 35 languages, while support scheduled in advance is available in 146 languages. Students may also be able to access support through the Indigenous Outreach Program at UTSC.

Staff and faculty can access the Employee and Family Assistance Program which offers confidential short–term counselling and support for issues relating to mental health, health management, and workplace well-being. To access EFAP services, please contact Homewood Health at 1-800-663-1142.
Residential school survivors or those impacted by residential schools can access support through the Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419. It is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience.

The Office of Indigenous Initiatives is available to connect Indigenous students, staff, faculty, librarians, and community members across U of T.
Beyond U of T, the following resources are also available to members of the Indigenous community:

Anishinawbe Health Toronto