A Kamloops-area First Nation says that the prime minister did not respond to either of the two invitations to their National Day for Truth and Reconciliation ceremony.
In a Thursday (Oct. 7) press release, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc said that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s presence was requested and would have symbolized his “personal commitment” to rectifying the wrongs done by the residential school system.
“His attendance would have been an acknowledgement to all survivors, their families, and communities – a clear public gesture would have brought peace to many,” the Tk’emlúps said in a statement.
“The lack of response to our invitations was an added insult, as he never extended his personal hand of sympathy to our community once he heard the official announcement on May 27, 2021.”
Trudeau made a public apology to the Tk’emlúps on Wednesday, saying that he was “in error” when he used the Sept. 30 statutory holiday to travel to Tofino with his family. His office said he made a private apology to Tk’emlúps Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir earlier.
The Tk’emlúps said that as the Canadian government created the residential school system, the onus is on the government to work with Indigenous Peoples to find solutions to the harms that were done and the intergenerational trauma that continues
“We are not interested in apologies that don’t lead to institutional and widespread change.”
The Tk’emlúps said they need funds for a healing centre in their community to support survivors, both those who went to residential schools and those suffering from intergenerational trauma.
“Before the Truth and Reconciliation process there were several residential school healing programs available in B.C. and in Canada funded by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. These were ironically defunded at the start of the TRC process,” the Tk’emlúps said.
“An Indigenous healing centre in Kamloops would address this mental health crisis, offer healing programs for survivors, intergenerational trauma healing, family healing and grief and loss healing amongst other types of programs.”
The Tk’emlúps once again called on the federal government to fully disclose all residential school records, particularly attendance records at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. The finding of more than 200 unmarked graves on its grounds in May sparked a reckoning in Canada about how the government has treated, and continues to treat, Indigenous Peoples.
The First Nation and the prime minister’s office have chosen a date for Trudeau to visit their community later in October.