While Tk’emlups te Secwépemc acknowledges the gestures of sympathy from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and leaders of other political parties, Chief Rosanne Casimir said Canada must be accountable for the impacts of the residential school system.
“We acknowledge your gestures, but as a community who is burdened with the legacy of a federally mandated Indian residential school, Canada must face ownership and accountability to Tk'emlups te Secwépemc, as well as all communities and families,” Casimir said in a statement.
“Our community is still gathering all the facts in this evolving tragedy. We will keep you informed as more information comes to light.”
Casimir noted many residential school survivors, from Tk’emlups and beyond, have been heard in the wake of the announcement of the discovery of the remains of 215 children on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
“They are finally being heard after so many years of silence and disbelief about the deaths of children in the residential schools. No words are sufficient to express the comfort and love we wish to extend to survivors and intergenerational survivors,” Casimir said.
“We see you, we love you and we believe you. We are thankful to the many who are working hard with us to ensure supports are there as you come to terms with these latest findings as well as your own truths and traumas.”
The reality, Casimir added, is that there are many more children unaccounted for.
“We have heard that the same knowing of unmarked burial sites exists at other former residential school grounds. It was something that the TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) raised in the early days of their work,” she said.
“However, it was not part of their original mandate. The TRC sought for it to be included and was turned down twice by the federal government. That said, the TRC was nonetheless able to do some important work on the topic and we encourage you to revisit Canada's Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials: The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Volume 4.
Casimir is also urging people to read the Where are the children buried?, a report from Dr. Scott Hamilton. The report “addresses the question where deceased Indian Residential School (IRS) students are buried. This is difficult to answer because of the varying circumstances of death and burial, coupled with the generally sparse information about Residential School cemeteries. It requires a historic understanding of school operations that contextualizes the patterns underlying death and burial.”
Casimir said the Tk’emlups community is also asking all Canadians to reacquaint themselves with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report and Calls to Action and to show solidarity by wearing an orange shirt and starting conversations with neighbours about why they are doing so.
Donations being accepted
Tk'emlups te Secwépemc is accepting donations that will automatically be deposited into a separate account set up for the initiative of reconciliation. The email is: email@example.com. There is no other fundraising initiatives Tk'emlups has authorized or is participating in at this time.
Church vandalism condemned
Casimir said Tk’emlups is “deeply disturbed” to learn that the historic Saint Joseph’s Church on the reserve was vandalized.
“The church was built from the ground up by Tk'emlups te Secwépemc members,” Casimir said. “We understand the many emotions connected to a Roman Catholic-run residential school. At the same time, we respect the choices that Tk'emlups te Secwépemc ancestors made, over a 100 years ago, to erect this church.”