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Since the initiation of the debate on institutional abuse, the institutional organizations of government and religious bodies have debated on the technical details of abuse to children. The subjects are often bent on what individual or organization bears the blame and/or responsibility for the wrongdoings to victims. The measures of damages derived from the abuse are reflected in the failures of government and religious institutions. All the while victims wait for some remedy to reconcile with their abuse. Many victims remain living lives in chronic poverty, isolation, homelessness, and crime. United Nations’ Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in his opening statement to the General Assembly, addressing the children of the world said,

“We, the grown-ups, have failed you deplorably…” adding, “One in three of you has suffered from malnutrition before you turned five years old. One in four of you has not been immunized against any disease. Almost one in five of you is not attending school…. We, the grown-ups, must reverse this list of failures.”

In 1991, the United Nations gave a first-ever definition of the child as being under the age of 18Canada ratified that. Sadly, not all Canadian provinces endorsed this ratification in their provincial legislation. At the heart of all the debates is reaction rather than response. Organizational bodies perceive the debate as a threat to the vitality of their autonomy. Hence, redress programs fail, mediation fails, and the cycle continues to surmount.

Additionally, as the debate tarries on, the truths of what causes may have been responsible for the ongoing abuses emerge. At the forefront, indifference stems from the history of abuse. In the past, Ombudsman office investigations, court testimonies and cross-examination of clergy, religious diocese and government bodies have mostly served to elicit further resistance to much-needed reform of the various child welfare practices and standards.

From the works titled, Meditations, revered roman philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, wrote: “It is no evil for things to undergo change, and no good to subsist in consequence of change.”

To remind ourselves and our elected representatives of the accidental actions and inactions that have traumatized victims of institutional child abuse, and to ensure that these wrongs are not repeated, we propose that:

  • An International Memorial Day be declared by the United Nations, the federal government and provincial governments and that an International Memorial Day be observed in the month of May each year thereafter;

  • Monuments be built on the sites of all demolished institutions, where the alleged and founded abuses occurred. Where the institution or building remains standing on the sites of every location where the alleged and founded abuses took place, that a monumental plaque be placed on the building, and a memoriam of historical content be displayed within the building;

  • The names of each and every former occupant and resident be engraved on the face of each plaque/monument, and the dates of the life span of each occupant and resident also be engraved. Where former occupants and residents are still living, a blank space be left and later marked in when they are deceased;

  • A statement of apology from the head of the United Nations, federal and provincial governments and the institutional organizations be engraved above the names of the former occupants and residents; a statement from all-former occupants and residents be scrolled atop of the names and below the government statement; a memorial service be held for each of the institution sites, chosen and prepared with former occupants and residents; our dead be honoured during the service by the reading of a roll call of the deceased and their life span dates; and the international guard be asked to perform a 21-gun salute to honour the dead;

  • All occupants and residents families/guardians of the deceased be asked to attend and/or their permission be asked to include the names of their family members who were former occupants and residents in the roll call of the dead.

  • All religious institutions, levels of government, and other organizational bodies involved in the former operations of the institutions where alleged and found abuses occurred share in the cost of the construction and ongoing future maintenance of these monumental sites in accordance with the International Memorial Day;

  • Runs be organized for each location to further promote International Memorial Day, and former occupants be offered the opportunity to share their experiences through public speaking engagements during International Memorial Day. This would help raise awareness of the past and ongoing issues of institutional child abuse;

  • Government and religious institutions be encouraged to observe and acknowledge the social, psychological and legal repercussions for victims and society as a whole, and a clear, decisive annual report of their roles and responsibilities be made, including the ongoing measures they are continuing to make in appropriate responses to redress;

  • Apologies be looked at again to bring a holistic meaning to its victims, and institutions be appropriately educated and sensitized to a proper assessment of damages flowing from these abuses. (These apologies should involve former occupants and residents.);

  • Official apologies from federal and provincial governments and institutional officials be read during memorial services on International Memorial Day; and

  • All parties involved in the redress hereto employ the principle of respect for survivors and the various nations of peoples and cultures in all these initiatives.
International Memorial Day would give example to other nations around the world to establish their own observed day to promote the issues of orphaned children past, present and in time to come, who suffer from the casualties of war, famine, and economic slowdowns. Canada can play a vital role in ensuring that these victims are not forgotten. We, the international community, will not abandon our responsibility to them in their time of need.

In all its endeavors, the Federation seeks foremost to liberate those who are oppressed by institutional mistreatment. It is in this context that the Federation maintains that peace will only be achieved through international understanding.

The International Memorial Day could send a message of hope and an example for change to further the cause of international and world humanitarian efforts that share a common determination to wipe away the indignity, injustices and unnecessary sufferings of people at home and around the world.

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