Warning: This story deals with disturbing subject matter that may upset and trigger some readers. Discretion is advised.
First Nations chiefs in B.C. were left with a range of emotions after what Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir called a “crucial” visit from the prime minister to her community.
He apologized repeatedly for that mistake, and vowed that Ottawa is truly “ready to partner” on reconciliation.
“I’m a true believer that actions speak louder than words, and today there was action,” said Kukpi7 Casimir, noting that Trudeau flew down on his son’s birthday.
“I did accept his apology and for me it’s about our survivors, it’s about all of us who’ve been impacted.”
Kukpi7 Casimir said she’s filled with hope after the prime minister’s visit because she believes in the “good of people,” and needs to believe “we are truly making a difference for our children and for future generations.”
Others were less encouraged.
Trudeau was questioned repeatedly by Indigenous rights-holders and journalists on Monday about his government’s efforts to challenge a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision ordering Ottawa to compensate Indigenous children removed from their homes by child and family services.
The tribunal found the federal government had “willfully” and “recklessly” discriminated against Indigenous children by underfunding those services on reserves.
Chiefs called on the prime minister to “stop fighting our kids in court,” to which Trudeau responded, “there is no question there will be compensation for people who suffered at the hands of child and family services.”
The government has appealed the decision because it’s concerned about the “implications,” he added, and wants to create systems and policy that ensure children are not removed from their communities and culture again — eliminating the need for future compensation.
Shuswap National Tribal Council Chair Kukpi7 Wayne Christian said his honest impression of Trudeau’s visit “is one of frustration and anger.”
“Canada continues to proceed down that road,” he explained.
“They need to take a legal strategy on reconciliation, specifically for the children. Stop fighting our kids in court, stop continuing to steal our land through the process they’ve set out. Stop taking our resources.”
Terry Teegee, Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations, agreed that the government needs to remove itself from a wide range of court actions across the country.
“I’m glad everybody on the Internet and survivors here witnessed what Prime Minister Trudeau said today,” he said. “We’re going to hold him to his words.”
Trudeau excels at “politics,” “theatrics” and “empty promises,” added Teegee, who also counts himself among those waiting for “action.”
National Assembly of First Nations Chief RoseAnne Archibald said it’s “about reparations now,” and the Indigenous community expects nothing less moving forward.
In return, she said the federal government can expect collaboration and partnership “with kindness and love.”
As it stands, Trudeau said his government has completed or is working on 80 per cent of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, although many Indigenous advocates keeping score disagree.
The federal government, Trudeau added, has turned over all documents in its possession related to residential schools, including the Kamloops Indian Residential School.
Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc confirmed Monday that some documents have been shared, but could not comment further.
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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