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Missing from politics : the missing children of Canada's Indian residential schools Sammons, Elise


This paper explores The Missing Children Project of the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission and examines the responses of communities and families of children who died or went missing in the residential school system from the 1870s to 1996. It uses Jenny Edkins’ discussion of how responses to missing persons and demands for information about their whereabouts, or in some cases, the circumstances of their deaths, represents a different kind of politics, one that acknowledges the person-as-such. Edkins’ framework is used to analyze comments from family and friends of some missing students and to examine family and community commemoration efforts. The paper also examines some of the Canadian federal government’s responses to the broader demand of recognition and to the Missing Children Project. The residential school system as a whole exemplified a type of politics that sought to reduce its victims to bare life; this is particularly evident in the way that deaths within the schools were handled: families were often not informed about the deaths of their children, and if they were, they were provided no details on the circumstances of their death and location of their burial. By demanding answers from the federal government, the families and communities of the missing insist on recognition, reclaiming the personhood of these victims, and seek a different type of political relationship with the Canadian state, a relationship which has at its centre an acknowledgement of the person-as-such.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada