Disclaimer: The story below contains details of residential schools which can be upsetting. The Crisis Line for Families and Residential School Survivors Canada is available 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited an Indigenous community in British Columbia, following the discovery earlier this year of more than 200 anonymous graves of children who died at the nearby church-run Kamloops Indian Residential School .
Sitting next to Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation Chief Rosanne Casimir on Monday, Trudeau said he wanted to âwork togetherâ with Indigenous communities to right historic wrongs. He did not announce new funding for residential school survivors or other specific initiatives.
The discovery of the remains of some 215 children, some of whom were only three years old, buried under the old school, sparked a storm of anger and a nationwide campaign called “Every Child Counts”.
âWords matter,â Trudeau said. âAn apology recognizing the damage that has been done is the first stepâ¦ but it’s not just words, it’s about actions. “
More than a dozen other Indigenous communities in Canada have started searching for mass graves using ground-penetrating radar, following grim revelations from the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation in May, revealing thousands of remains.
“No words can express the level of heartache and grief that the confirmation of the anonymous graves of missing children from Kamloops Indian Residential School (KIRS) and other residential schools have brought to Indigenous people across the country,” said Tk’emlups te Secwepemc. First Nation, located in central British Columbia in western Canada, said in a statement earlier this month.
Trudeau’s visit to the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation came after he was criticized for going to the beach on Canada’s first National Truth and Reconciliation Day on September 30, ignoring a previous invitation to visit the indigenous community.
Trudeau, who was re-elected Prime Minister of Canada in September, said again on Monday that it was a mistake to go on a family vacation that day. He first apologized for the trip in early October.
âI have a lot of regrets about September 30 and my decision to travel,â Trudeau said Monday. âInstead of talking about truth and reconciliation, people talked about me. It’s mine.
He said he was “grateful” to Chief Casimir for welcoming him into the community. “She could have chosen to turn her back on me and the federal government,” Trudeau said. Instead, “she said ‘please come and learn and we will walk this path together’ and that is why I am here.”
Trudeau also said Canada will “always” lower its flags to half staff on September 30 in the future.
For more than 100 years, Canadian authorities forcibly separated thousands of Indigenous children from their families and forced them to attend residential schools, which aimed to sever Indigenous family and cultural ties and assimilate the children into Canadian society. White.
The schools, which were run by churches from the 1870s to 1996, were plagued by physical, mental and sexual abuse, neglect, and other forms of violence, and they created a cycle of intergenerational trauma for them. indigenous peoples across Canada.
Founded in 1890 and run by the Catholic Church, Kamloops Indian Residential School eventually became the largest school in Canada’s residential school system, with 500 children at its peak in the early 1950s.
A national board of inquiry into the residential schools, known as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, concluded in 2015 that the policy was an act of “cultural genocide.” It also issued 94 calls to action to address the damage caused by the system.
According to an analysis by the National Post, a conservative newspaper, in June: 13 of those recommendations were adopted, the government took action on 60 recommendations and took no real action on 21 calls to action.
On Monday, members of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation also pressured Trudeau to fund a new Indigenous healing center to address the mental health crisis and “intergenerational trauma” caused by residential schools. Indian and other colonial practices, the community said. in a report before Trudeau’s visit.
During Monday’s event, reporters also asked Trudeau what the government plans to do about the large number of Indigenous children who are currently being taken from their families and communities by social service agencies and placed in care. with a host family.
He did not announce any new or specific commitments.
According to government data, more than half of Canadian children in foster care are Indigenous, although they represent less than eight percent of the infant population.
More than 14,000 Indigenous children in Canada are living with foster families in private homes after being taken from their biological Indigenous parents as a result of complaints of neglect, abuse or other issues.