ICMP Recognizes Orange Shirt Day, the National Day For Truth and Reconciliation and All Those Who Did Not Return Home from Canada’s Residential Schools

The Hague, 29 September 2023: As Canada marks the 10th anniversary of Orange Shirt Day and the third National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) reaffirms its commitment to Residential School Survivors and Indigenous communities in achieving justice and accountability for the missing children and unmarked burials associated with Canada’s Indian Residential Schools system.

ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger said, “ICMP recognizes the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The ICMP Canada Program, like ICMP’s programs throughout the world, is focused on advancing truth, justice, and accountability. ICMP acknowledges the government of Canada’s efforts to address past injustices and urges the state to make reparations under its international human rights obligations.” Ms Bomberger continued: “To do this, we are actively reaching out to and listening to the experiences and the wishes of Survivors, Leadership, and Indigenous communities. We will be guided by their experience, and we will make available to them ICMP’s technical capacity and the insights we have gained working with communities, including indigenous communities, in other parts of the world.”

Sheila North, Director, Missing Children, Residential Schools, and Engagement, at ICMP’s Canada Program, said that, as an intergenerational Survivor and part of the first generation who did not attend an Indian Residential School, “I am honored to work with and for Survivors, their communities, and Leaders by working with ICMP to support the wishes and plans for unmarked graves in Canada. I feel a deep sense of responsibility to support Survivors and families in this way, as a form of peace and justice for those who didn’t make it home, and those who survived.”

More than 150,000 children were removed from their families and sent to Residential Schools in the late 19th century and much of the 20th century for the purposes of assimilation and the eradication of their languages and culture. The Canadian House of Commons has recognized cultural destruction as a possible means of genocide. Thousands of children died and went missing while attending these schools. Those that died were often buried in unofficial cemeteries or unmarked burial sites and their identities may be unknown.

Following a request for assistance by members of Canada’s Indigenous Community and a Technical Arrangement signed with the Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC), ICMP launched a program in February 2023 to help Residential School Survivors and Indigenous communities formulate next steps in addressing the issue of unmarked burials at Residential Schools.


About ICMP

ICMP is a treaty-based intergovernmental organization with Headquarters in The Hague, the Netherlands. Its mandate is to secure the cooperation of governments and others in locating missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, migration and other causes and to assist them in doing so. ICMP also supports the work of other organizations in their efforts, encourages public involvement in its activities and contributes to the development of appropriate expressions of commemoration and tribute to the missing.