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‘Warriored up’ survivors speak truth to power at ceremony in Kamloops, B.C.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau makes another promise to Indigenous communities ahead of throne speech' Trudeau makes another promise to Indigenous communities ahead of throne speech
WATCH: While visiting the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced another symbolic commitment in the path to reconciliation. David Akin explains what that is, how Indigenous Canadians are calling for concrete action, and what can be expected from the upcoming speech from the throne – Oct 18, 2021

Warning: This story deals with disturbing subject matter that may upset and trigger some readers. Discretion is advised.

Survivors and intergenerational survivors of residential schools shattered “the myth of friendly Canada” on Monday, in a powerful ceremony hosted by Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc in Kamloops, B.C.

They spoke truth to power as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listened in his first visit to the community since its harrowing confirmation of 215 unmarked burial sites last spring.

“Thank yourselves, all you survivors for the work that you did, the hard work that you did to survive the genocide of Canada against us,” said Shuswap National Tribal Council Chair, Kukpi7 Wayne Christian.

“We are here because every man, woman and child, grandfather, grandmother, aunt and uncle — you warriored up.”

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Read more: First Nation chief calls for ‘peaceful resolution’ on Trudeau’s visit to Kamloops, B.C.

Since May, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc has pursued justice for Le Estcwéy̓ — the missing children — calling on Ottawa to fund a healing centre for the community and turn over all documents pertaining to the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

Kukpi7 Christian said his mother never shared the “atrocities” she survived there, and while he recognized Trudeau is just a “man” who makes “mistakes,” as prime minister, he must shoulder that legacy.

“You carry the weight of this country on your shoulders, and all we’re saying is let’s work together.”

Click to play video: 'Trudeau apologizes to Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation during visit' Trudeau apologizes to Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation during visit
Trudeau apologizes to Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation during visit – Oct 18, 2021

Students from the Sk’elep School sang the Secwépemc Honour song for survivors and intergenerational survivors and shared an original music video about their love for their land and community.

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Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc residential school survivor Charlotte Manual tearfully called for a moment of silence as she laid tobacco for Le Estcwéy̓.

“I’ve worked hard on myself I’ve made lots of mistakes in my life … but I’ve learned to forgive myself for blaming myself for making mistakes,” she said.

“I pray that we can have it in our hearts to start forgiving, and start working and making the truth and reconciliation a path for all of us, for the children of the future, for the children of the past, for the children of now and the present.”

Read more: Canada needs to ‘lean in’: Message on truth and reconciliation from Kamloops, B.C.

Earlier in the day, the prime minister visited the sacred site of Le Estcwéy̓ to pay his respects.

He apologized several times for taking a vacation on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, making “a very difficult day even harder.”

National Assembly of First Nations Chief RoseAnne Archibald said the “myth of friendly of Canada has been shattered,” and the “days of empty rhetoric are over.”

“We must all now pick up the pieces together and construct a truthful story about our painful shared history.”

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Click to play video: 'Trudeau commits to lowering flags to half-mast every National Day for Truth and Reconciliation' Trudeau commits to lowering flags to half-mast every National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
Trudeau commits to lowering flags to half-mast every National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – Oct 18, 2021

Trudeau agreed, and lamented the loss of rich traditional and knowledge and culture in Canada to the government’s “wrong-headed colonial mindset, the racist ideology, the cultural genocide.”

“We love to tell stories of ourselves being this open, tolerant nation. We compare ourselves with smug smiles to the news coming out of the United States,” he said.

“To the survivors who shared their powerful, moving, heartbreaking stories, I have heard you. To the families, to this community, I am listening to what we need to do to make amends as a country.”

Read more: ‘Very hurtful’: AFN National Chief Archibald criticizes Trudeau for Tofino holiday

The prime minister and Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir exchanged gifts, including a gift for Trudeau’s son, who celebrated a birthday on Monday.

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“This is about our children, all our children,” she said.

Ashley Michel, a Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc youth, urged Trudeau to keep Indigenous children top of mind in his policies and bring the peace their families deserve.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau’s decision to vacation in Tofino on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was ‘hurtful,’ Singh says' Trudeau’s decision to vacation in Tofino on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was ‘hurtful,’ Singh says
Trudeau’s decision to vacation in Tofino on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was ‘hurtful,’ Singh says – Oct 7, 2021

“I want our children to have a future where their voice is heard, where they don’t have to worry about being another statistic,” she said through tears. “We need more than words and broken promises, Mr. Trudeau.

Listen and learn from our elders and survivors while they’re still here … Use your power and privilege for good and make this visit count.”

Meanwhile, Archibald called for an independent investigation into Canada’s residential school system as communities continue to confirm the remains of more children who were “literally cast aside” in unmarked graves.

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“Canada must not be allowed to investigate itself,” she said.

“We need to continue to work together so that everyone, First Nations and non-First Nations will come to terms with these truths so that we may collectively heal. That is when reconciliation will start. that is the path we must be on in unity, in solidarity for our children.”

Click to play video: 'Trudeau visits Tk’emlúps First Nation, apologizes for ignoring invitations' Trudeau visits Tk’emlúps First Nation, apologizes for ignoring invitations
Trudeau visits Tk’emlúps First Nation, apologizes for ignoring invitations – Oct 18, 2021

The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419) is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience.

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