CAPA/ACAP Statement on Unmarked Burials at Former Residential Schools

Content warning/Trigger warning: This statement deals with child death, colonialism, residential schools, genocide, and intergenerational trauma.


We, as Members of The Canadian Association for Physical Anthropology /L’Association Canadienne  d’Anthropologie Physique (CAPA/ACAP), stand in solidarity with communities of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc territory, and with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities of the missing children who died in Residential Schools across the country, many of whom were buried in unmarked graves. We are saddened at the report concerning the Kamloops Residential School and acknowledge the trauma communities continue to endure. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Report on Missing Children and Unmarked Graves contains many accounts of deaths and burials that were not recorded or acknowledged.



We demand that the federal government act on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action 71-76  on Missing Children and Unmarked Graves, specifically by providing resources to identify, document, maintain, commemorate, and protect residential school cemeteries and other sites where residential school children were buried.



As physical (biological) anthropologists we are among a broad group of disciplines whose past scientific engagements have been used to support colonial injustice. We affirm our commitment to anti-colonial work broadly, and stand ready to contribute to the pursuit of closure and justice, as defined by, and at the invitation of, affected communities. CAPA/ACAP is in communication with other professional organizations, such as the Canadian Archaeology Association and the Institute for Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology, and is open to additional collaborations and inquiries.



A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419 for anyone who is affected by residential schools. 



Mise en garde quant au contenu : la présente déclaration traite de la mort d’enfants, des

pensionnats autochtones, de colonialisme, de génocide et de traumatisme intergénérationnel.


Nous, membres de l’Association canadienne d’anthropologie physique/The Canadian Association for Physical Anthropology (CAPA/ACAP), sommes solidaires des communautés du territoire de Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc ainsi que des communautés des Premières Nations, des Métis et des Inuits dont provenaient les enfants disparus qui sont morts dans les pensionnats autochtones partout au pays. Plusieurs de ces enfants ont été enterrés dans des tombes sans inscription. Nous sommes attristés par le rapport concernant le pensionnat de Kamloops et reconnaissons les traumatismes que les communautés touchées continuent de subir. Le rapport de la Commission de vérité et réconciliation sur les enfants disparus et les lieux de sépulture non marqués contient de nombreux récits de décès et d’enterrements qui n’ont pas été enregistrés ou reconnus.


Nous demandons au gouvernement fédéral qu’il donne suite aux appels à l’action 71 à 76 de la


Commission de vérité et réconciliation concernant les enfants disparus et les lieux de sépulture non marqués, notamment en fournissant des ressources pour identifier, documenter, entretenir, commémorer et protéger les cimetières des pensionnats autochtones et les autres sites où des enfants ont été enterrés.


En tant qu’anthropologues physiques (biologiques), nous œuvrons dans un large éventail de disciplines dont des travaux scientifiques passés ont été utilisés pour soutenir l’injustice coloniale. Nous tenons à affirmer notre engagement en faveur des efforts anticolonialistes au sens large, et nous sommes prêts à contribuer à la quête de justice et de résolution du deuil, selon la signification que lui donnent les communautés affectées ainsi qu’à leur invitation. La CAPA/ACAP est non seulement en communication avec d’autres associations professionnelles, comme l'Association canadienne d'archéologie et l’Institute for Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology, mais elle est aussi ouverte à d’autres collaborations et à la tenue d’enquêtes supplémentaires.


Une ligne d’écoute nationale sur les pensionnats autochtones est accessible 24 heures sur 24 pour toute personne touchée par la tragédie des pensionnats autochtones au 1-866-925-4419





Anti-Racism Position Statement from CAPA Subcommittee for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

We, as Members of The Canadian Association for Physical Anthropology /L’Association Canadienne d’Anthropologie Physique (CAPA-ACAP), recognize that while race is a biological fallacy, it is a sociocultural reality with profound lived consequences. Racism is real. The structural racism present in Canada has direct biological and social consequences that disproportionately affect individuals of the Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) communities. Reporting by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) concerning fatal encounters with police revealed that from 2000 to 2017, Black people represented almost 37% of victims in Toronto despite making up approximately 8.3% of the population. Similarly shocking, Indigenous individuals comprise approximately 10.6% of Winnipeg’s population, but represented almost 2/3 of the victims. While we witness and mourn the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Chantel Moore, Ahmaud Arbery, and D’Andre Campbell, among countless others, we recognize the entrenched discrimination and racism that surround their deaths. As Members of CAPA-ACAP, we acknowledge our discipline’s racist history and our academic predecessors’ roles in helping to establish systemic discriminatory and colonial practices that persist today. As scholars with a deep understanding of human variation, adaptation, and evolution, physical (biological) anthropologists have a responsibility to not only strive for equity, but also to actively promote anti-racism and anti-colonialism. Our research and teaching are committed to celebrating human diversity and complexity and to identifying and fighting structural racism, colonialism, and hate.

As active Members of CAPA-ACAP, we recognize the need to continue fighting structural racism, colonialism, and hate. These commitments require ongoing and sustained effort. The CAPA-ACAP Code of Ethics and Statement of Diversity and Inclusion state the following commitments:

CAPA-ACAP Code of Ethics:
“Teachers/mentors should conduct their programs in inclusive environments that preclude discrimination on the basis of sex, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, "race," ethnic background, national origin, social class, political convictions, disability, religion, age, or any other criteria irrelevant to academic performance."

CAPA-ACAP Statement on Diversity and Inclusion:

“We commit to providing a welcoming and safe space for scientists and scholars regardless of sex, ethnicity, age, physical appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, financial situation, religion, national origin, cultural background, pregnancy, parental or marital status, immigration status, academic affiliation, or any other aspect of identity. We seek at all times to mitigate the harms caused by inequities within our academy. We acknowledge the lands on which we gather and our continuing commitment to decolonizing our professional interactions through community-engaged approaches. Bullying, harassment or discriminatory forms of behaviour have no place within our society."

#BlackLivesMatter #JusticeforFloyd #IndigenousLivesMatter #BIPOCLivesMatter

1 – Marcoux, J., & Nicholson, K. (2018). “Deadly force: Fatal encounters with police in Canada: 2000- 2017,” CBC News. Retrieved from:

CAPA/ACAP Subcommittee for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and CAPA/ACAP Executive Committee Members (June 4, 2020)

Ian Colquhoun (University of Western Ontario) Sandra Garvie-Lok (University of Alberta)
James Gibb (University of Toronto)
Lauren Gilhooly (University of Western Ontario) Ellie Gooderham (Simon Fraser University) Lesley Harrington (University of Alberta)

Angela Lieverse (University of Saskatchewan) Madeleine Mant (University of Toronto Mississauga) Luseadra McKerracher (McMaster University) Joseph Parish (Cape Breton University)
Kaela Parker (University of Manitoba)
Samantha Price (McMaster University)
Tracy Prowse (McMaster University)
Elizabeth Sawchuk (University of Alberta)
Sarah Shaver (University of Windsor)
Deanna Smith (Simon Fraser University)
Laure Spake (Simon Fraser University)



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