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Secwepemc chief Tk’emlúps describes Trudeau’s visit as “bitter”

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OTTAWA – Secwepemc Tk’emlúps chief Rosanne Casimir told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that his visit to the First Nation community on Monday was bitter after his apparent absence from their ceremony to recognize the first National Day for him. Truth and Reconciliation.

Chief Casimir said Trudeaus’s decision to drop their two invitations to rest with his family in Tofino, before September 30, caused shock, anger and grief and distrust in the community.

Today is about some positive steps forward and correcting a mistake. We wanted to make sure Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited what we refer to as a shrine, she said.

It was a long-awaited moment to get a personal hand of recognition and sympathy regarding this horrific confirmation of unmarked graves by the Canadian head of state.

Earlier this year, it was reported that about 200 unmarked graves had been found near the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

Parliament passed a bill last June to recognize a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation every September 30th. It is a legal holiday for federal employees, but the government has stressed that it should be a day for reflection.

After hearing the chiefs’ remarks, Trudeau responded, noting again that he wishes he had been with the grieving community and deeply regrets his decision to go on holiday instead.

But I am here today to take the outstretched hand from Tk’emlúps to Secwepemc and so many indigenous Canadians across the country who have every reason in the world to feel pessimistic and gloomy about the future, he said.

Trudeau said Chief Casimir could have turned his back on her, but instead she invited him back.

She held out her hand, she said please come, listen and learn and we will walk this path together and that is why I am here, he said.

He said he and his government are committed to doing better.

There is so much more to do and we will always be there to do that job, he said. Making sure they were supporting the language and culture that has caused the strength and vibrancy of this community for generations, despite the efforts of previous governments to eradicate them.

The Prime Minister also said that flags in federal buildings, including Parliament Hill, will be lowered to half-staff every September 30 to recognize the day.

The national head of the First Nations Assembly was also present Monday. She thanked Trudeau for the arrival, but said it was time for current progress, no more words.

The main part of our work together is to change behaviors, take concrete actions, instead of empty words and empty empty apologies, said RoseAnne Archibald.

I will continue to hold to account. Someone has to be blamed for the death of our children. There should be an examination to determine if some of our children have been killed. Canada must be held accountable for their genocidal laws and policies. Canada should not be allowed to investigate itself.

Chief Casimir said concretely, she is seeking to create a strong and ongoing commitment from the federal government to help revive the languages, culture and traditions of the First Nations.

She also calls on the government to submit any documents held by the Ottawa or Catholic Church that would help identify those lost in previous housing schools and help develop a community healing center for survivors.

Survivors are constantly challenged, and are overwhelmed by sadness, grief, and anger. Even those who have made great progress in their healing journey have suffered a great failure, she said.

After the prime minister left the event, other indigenous leaders were asked for their impressions from the prime ministers’ remarks.

Shuswap Nation Tribal Council chief Wayne Christian said he left with disappointment and anger.

To be honest, because politicians have a tendency, especially when there is big media, to say what they think the public wants to hear. He said nothing that I saw as concrete steps, he said.

If you are an anxious former residential school student, or have been affected by the residential school system and need help, you can contact the 24-Hour Indian Residential School Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419

Additional mental health support and resources for indigenous people are available here.

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