The Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) calls on the federal government and the Roman Catholic Church to take action following the discovery of the remains of 215 children buried on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School. On Thursday, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation said preliminary results of a ground penetrating radar survey uncovered the remains. Since then, federal government officials and leaders have taken to social media and sent out press releases offering their support.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted Friday that the discovery is “a painful reminder of this dark and shameful chapter in our country’s history” and offered reflections and support.
The news that remains was found at the old Kamloops residential school breaks my heart – it is a painful reminder of this dark and shameful chapter in our country’s history. I think of all those affected by this distressing news. We are here for you. https://t.co/ZUfDRyAfET
Speaking on behalf of the Archdiocese of Vancouver, Archbishop J. Michael Miller told CBC News in an emailed statement that the findings filled him with “deep sadness.”
“The pain of such news reminds us of our constant need to bring to light all the tragic situations that have arisen in the Church-run residential schools. The passing of time does not erase the suffering affecting the affected Indigenous communities, and we are committed to doing all we can to heal this suffering. ”
‘Prayers only go so far’
Angela White, executive director of the IRSSS, said the church and the federal government must act.
“Reconciliation means nothing if there is no action in these words,” she said.
“Wishes for happiness and prayers don’t go far. If we are really going to make positive progress, there has to be this ability to continue the work, as the Residential School Survivors Society is doing, in a meaningful way. “
2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Report Calls on the Federal Government to Provide Sustainable Funding to Existing and New Indigenous Healing Centers to Address the Physical, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual Harms Caused by Residential Schools .
Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir also expressed the wish for accountability of the federal government.
“It’s fine for the federal government to show goodwill and support for the tragedy,” Casimir said in an interview on CBC’s Daybreak Kamloops.
“There is significant ownership and responsibility both to Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and all the communities and families that are affected. And it must and must happen. “
Calls on the Pope to answer
In a press release, IRSSS Co-Chair Rick Alec, a member of the Ts’kw’aylaxw First Nation, specifically called on the Pope to act.
“My creator asks their God why the disciples would do this to us,” he said. “The Pope must answer this question. There is more to deny it. Now there is physical evidence of these unmarked graves. “
The TRC report also called on the Pope to apologize to survivors, their families and communities for the role of the church in the abuse of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children in Catholic residential schools.
In 2018, a letter from the president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that Pope Francis could not personally apologize for the residential schools.
White of the IRSSS said if the Catholic Church apologized today for its involvement in residential schools across Canada, it would make no sense, as they have had many years to apologize.
She said acknowledging the history and reality of residential schools validates what survivors have shared for years and is an important part of the healing process.
Support is available to anyone affected by the lingering effects of residential schools and to those triggered by the latest reports. The IRSSS can be reached toll free at 1-800-721-0066.
A national residential school crisis line has been established to provide support to former students and those affected. Access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour National Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419.
In British Columbia, the KUU-US Crisis Line Society provides a crisis line specific to First Nations and Indigenous people available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is a toll-free number and you can reach it at 1- 800-588-8717 or online at kuu-uscrisisline.com.