The children and families victimized by Canada’s residential schools system will be remembered as the Canadian Football League kicks off its 2021 season this week.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Saskatchewan Roughriders, Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Elks will all acknowledge the tragedy as they host home games Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
The on-field officials working the games will wear orange pins recognizing Every Child Matters movement. This initiative was led by Field Judge Brian Chrupalo, an Indigenous police officer in Winnipeg and President of the Canadian Professional Football Officials Association.
The CFL also plans to feature a virtual on field logo that depicts an Every Child Matters logo during this weekend’s games.
These acknowledgements follow the discovery earlier this year of 751 unmarked graves at the former site of the Marieval Residential School in Saskatchewan, the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at the Kamloops Residential School in British Columbia and the discovery of 182 unmarked graves near the former St. Eugene’s Mission School, also in British Columbia.
In its final report in 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), based on interviews with more than 6,000 witnesses, said the residential schools policy amounted to cultural genocide and are inseparable from the present day problems Indigenous people face, from high rates of poverty, suicide and incarceration to the loss of Indigenous lands and traditions.
The TRC’s Missing Children Project has documented more than 4,100 deaths in the schools but it has been reported that the full tally could be as high as 6,000, given huge gaps in the available records.
“The suffering of these families – and the trauma each discovery triggers for Indigenous people across the country – reminds us all that Canada’s story includes racism, colonialism and extreme cruelty,” said CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie in a press release.
“Our clubs, working with Indigenous communities, want to acknowledge the pain and injustice imposed upon First Nations, Metis and Inuit and recognize that there is much more to be done.”
CFL clubs are also planning acknowledgements to take place closer to September 30th, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a federal statutory holiday created to provide an opportunity to commemorate and recognize the legacy of residential schools.
The CFL’s 2021 season kicks off tomorrow evening when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in a rematch of the 107th Grey Cup, which was played in 2019, prior to a 20-month hiatus forced by the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be followed by games Friday in Saskatchewan and Saturday in Calgary and Edmonton.