Ottawa, June 1 (IANS) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that his government will take further actions in response to the discovery of the remains of 215 children in a former residential school in Kamloops city.
Amid calls for accountability and to go beyond lowering flags at federal buildings, Trudeau told the media on Monday that Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal will discuss what role his government should be playing in response to the development, reports Xinhua news agency.
On May 24, the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation in Kamloops city, British Columbia, announced that ground-penetrating radar uncovered the remains of 215 children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.
The horrific discovery prompted calls for a national day of mourning and saw people across Canada set up memorials.
“As a dad, I can’t imagine what it would feel like to have my kids taken away from me, and as prime minister, I am appalled by the shameful policy that stole Indigenous children from their communities,” said Trudeau.
“We promised concrete action, and that’s how we’ll support survivors, families, and Indigenous peoples.
“Sadly, this is not an exception or an isolated incident. We’re not going to hide from that. We have to acknowledge the truth. Residential schools were a reality, a tragedy that existed here, in our country, and we have to own up to it,” the Prime Minister added.
Opposition MPs urged the Trudeau government to fully fund the investigation of other former residential school sites and to put more sustainable funding towards healing initiatives.
Green Party Leader Annamie Paul said the terrible discovery once again highlights “the absolute genocidal tragedy of our residential school system”, calling on the Trudeau government to demand the Catholic church apologise for its role in the residential school system.
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued its final report on the inhumane mistreatment inflicted on Indigenous children at residential schools, concluding that they constituted a cultural genocide.
The Commission’s register of confirmed deaths identified 3,200 students but work is still ongoing to uncover what could be thousands of more deaths that went undocumented.
More than 150,000 indigenous children were reportedly forced into residential schools between the 1870s and 1996.
The last residential school closed in 1996.
In 2009, June was declared National Indigenous History Month, following the passing of a unanimous motion in the House of Commons.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement to mark the month dedicated to celebrating Indigenous contributions to Canada while understanding and acknowledging the unique adversities that Indigenous Peoples face and have overcome.
Trudeau said: “This month is an opportunity for us to participate in virtual activities to engage with, and deepen our understanding of, Indigenous peoples’ distinct histories, customs, spiritualities, and languages. Doing so is essential to promoting a society based on mutual respect, understanding, and fairness. We all need to play a role in amplifying the voices of Indigenous peoples, dismantling systemic racism, inequalities, and discrimination, and walking the path of reconciliation together. The recent, distressing news of the remains of 215 children found near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School is a painful reminder that the impacts of residential schools are still felt today. Sadly, this heartbreaking discovery in Kamloops is not an exception or isolated incident. Over decades, thousands of Indigenous children were taken from their families and communities, and everything was stolen from them. We must all unreservedly acknowledge this truth and address these historical and ongoing wrongs, so we can build a better future.”