IN THE LEDGE – ‘We must work together to heal these painful wounds’

Kamloops Indian Residential School in 1970. (Image: Archives Canada)

Comments by Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Peter Milobar in the BC Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021:

I RISE TODAY with a heart filled with grief. Last week, the member for Kamloops–South Thompson and myself were left speechless at the news that the remains of 215 children were found buried at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

MLA Peter Milobar.

By all accounts, 215 children whose deaths were undocumented, 215 children with the indignity of an unmarked grave, and 215 families who will never be told what happened to their child.

How do you put into words what the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc people — and indeed, all Indigenous people across our province and country — are feeling right now?

In the past few days, many of us have remarked that there are no words, as the Premier referenced as well, to describe this horrific discovery. But we must find the words. We cannot continue the silence that allowed this to happen in the first place, that continues to impact generations of Indigenous families in so many ways. We must find the words, and we must take action.

We must reaffirm our steadfast commitment to meaningful reconciliation. Survivors must be heard. We need to work to find them the closure and some peace.

We can never forget or ignore the 215 children who lost their lives. Each death is an irreplaceable loss for an Indigenous family. Each person mattered, and unthinkably, thousands more also remain lost.

I want to say a word about the people in my community, in Kamloops, where this tragic discovery was made. I need to acknowledge the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc people and their strength through this difficult process of confirming their worst fears.

Kúkpi7 Rosanne Casimir called it “A knowing in our community, a feeling that sat heavy in people’s hearts for many, many years, until it became a stark reality last week.

Taking on this work, and knowing the probable and painful outcome, has been and will continue to be no easy task. Yet Kúkpi7 Casimir and her council are providing strength to all in [An Indigenous language was spoken].

The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc language and culture department conducted this careful work with the help of ceremonial knowledge-keepers who ensured protocols were being upheld.

They have also been careful and sensitive in the way they have shared the news of the discovery with the community, the media and the public, because they know how hard this news will come to those who lost loved ones and those who are still dealing with the effects of residential schools.

Despite the deep heartbreak and grief felt by many, they are continuing their work on the site, because last week’s findings may only be the beginning of the story. I want to thank them for their perseverance and their strength in the face of such tragedy and loss.

Kamloops has an interesting history with Canada when it comes to Indigenous issues. It was 1910 that the Laurier Memorial was signed in Kamloops. Here we are 111 years later, and still no action on that document. Indigenous communities want to see action. It is long since past.

It is incumbent on all of us in this chamber to listen and support the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc in their efforts to ensure that their cultural protocols are followed as they work to provide their lost children and their families the dignity of a proper final resting place.

This loss is felt by all British Columbians and all Canadians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike. We all have heavy hearts today, and we must work together in a good way to heal these painful wounds.

Source: BC Hansard

About Mel Rothenburger (9378 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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