An ongoing appeal to the archives was made at a press conference preceding a recognition ceremony for the first annual National Truth and Reconciliation Day on Thursday, September 30 at the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Powwow arbor.
Tk’emlúps called on the federal government and the Catholic Church to release attendance records of all students who attended Kamloops Indian Residential School after the band discovered signs of 200 probable graves on the grounds of the old establishment in May of this year.
Tk’emlúps Kúkpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir, Band Legal Counsel Don Worme and Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald called for action rather than pledging to help the Band investigate the missing indigenous children linked to school.
“The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and First Nations with Catholic residential schools have faced persistent problems obtaining the cooperation and support we need to document and identify missing and deceased children,” Casimir said.
She said band researchers and community members did not have unrestricted access to information about the Kamloops residential school and wanted the federal government to share “full documentation” with them.
Worme said there had been commitments from organizations that operated the school – the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the Sisters of St. Anne – that they would do their utmost to provide records, which did not occur. not yet materialized.
“We have already heard their apologies, we have seen them come forward and offer to provide their files. We no longer accept these words. The right words are not enough, we want action, ”said Worme.
Worme, who worked at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), expressed skepticism about the process because the federal government failed to fulfill its obligation to provide all relevant documents to that body.
“We cannot allow this to happen again,” he said.
Worme said the group needed disclosure by the Canadian government and the Catholic Church of all relevant documents, including finding aids – codes that describe the content of large collections in government databases – rather than a “document dump”.
“Finding aids are a tool designed to help archivists and researchers locate and understand records in the appropriate context. Without these, you can’t access essential research for relevant documents, ”Worme said.
He said the TRC did not receive these codes and the end result was that many files were not viewed.
Despite multiple invitations from Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc to mark the first annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau instead spent the day on vacation in Tofino.
Casimir told reporters the group sent two written invitations to Trudeau to attend the Sept. 30 ceremony and visit the community.
“I understand that the federal election has taken place. I was hoping he would be here today, ”Casimir said, adding that she hopes the Prime Minister will work together with the group on a positive path forward.
According to a Global News report, Trudeau, despite his official schedule marking him in Ottawa in private meetings on September 30, was in fact in Tofino to spend the day with his family, but was also preparing to speak with residential school survivors. from all over the world. country.
On June 3, the federal government made September 30 a federal holiday – National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – just days after Tk’emlúps announced the discovery of probable graves on the grounds of the former Indian Residential School of Kamloops.
Since that announcement in May, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has been the only federal political party leader to visit Tk’emlúps.
Last week, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) issued a statement of apology and pledged $ 30 million over five years to support healing and reconciliation initiatives for residential school survivors, their families and their families. communities.
At Thursday’s press conference, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief RoseAnne Archibald called the funds, along with the dollars committed by the federal government, “a long overdue step” and called for government funding is “Indigenous-led, survivor-centered, and culturally safe.”
She said the AFN also seeks to ensure that every dollar of funds committed goes to healing initiatives for survivors and intergenerational survivors.
“As National Chief, I will be reaching out to the Bishops of Canada to ensure that First Nations are involved in developing what they call the National Principle and the strategies, timelines and public communication as outlined in their announcement, ”Archibald said.
Casimir described the CCCB’s apology commitment “to continue the work of providing documents or records that will aid in the commemoration of those buried in anonymous graves” cynical, as he has had ample opportunity to exercise any authority he may have to provide these records and documents to the Catholic entities he presides over.
“If this apology is truly a commitment, then Tk̓ emlúps te Secwépemc insists on the full and complete production of all relevant records and documents in a manner and in a form that is useful and accessible to residential school survivors to help identify these children. missing, these anonymous graves. and repatriate lost people, ”Casimir said.
She also called on the CCCB to work with her band to help implement TRC recommendations 71-76, which deal with missing children and burial information.