Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday June 2, 2021
PM says cabinet discussing ‘further’ actions in response to mass grave uncovered at residential school
Amid calls to go beyond lowering flags at federal buildings and to fund the research and excavation of residential school burial sites Canada-wide, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t have any tangible next steps to announce Monday but said discussions are underway following a horrific discovery in British Columbia.
Trudeau said he will be speaking with his cabinet about the “next and further” actions the federal government should take in response to the discovery of remains of 215 children at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
Trudeau said that Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal will be discussing what role the federal government should be playing, noting “an awful lot” remains to be done when it comes to reconciliation.
Trudeau said determining where and how many more Indigenous children’s remains may be buried in this country is “is an important part of discovering the truth,” and there will be more done by the government, but offered no concrete commitment.
“We are committed to reconciliation. We are committed to truth. We are committed to being there to help the Indigenous communities understand the past and move forward into the future the right way. And as they make requests, as there is a need for discovering more, we will continue to be there,” Trudeau said. “We haven’t looked at exactly what the processes, or the needs are entirely, but Canada will be there to support indigenous communities as we discover the extent of this trauma.”
On May 28, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announced that it had found the remains at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, using ground-penetrating radar. The discovery prompted calls for a national day of mourning and saw people across Canada set up memorials.
Among the concrete actions opposition MPs called for on Monday were for the federal government to follow through on the 94 Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action under its jurisdiction, and to stop fighting residential school settlements in court.
“It is not good enough for the federal Liberal government to just make symbolic gestures to commemorate this horrible loss. We are calling on the federal government to do something concrete. The Liberal government can’t on one hand grieve this horrible tragedy, this horrible loss while they are still taking Indigenous kids to court,” said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who became visibly emotional when speaking about the lives lost and the families left behind without answers.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) issued its final report on residential schools in 2015, concluding that they constituted a cultural genocide. The comprehensive and extensive findings detail the inhumane mistreatment inflicted on Indigenous children who were taken from their families and sent to one of the more than 130 institutions across the country. The last school closed in 1996, 25 years ago.
Asked repeatedly why more has not been done, and when more concrete progress can be expected, Trudeau said that he knows there is impatience, but the federal government can’t act alone. (CTV)