Excerpt from exchange between Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Peter Milobar and Nathan Cullen, Minister of State for Lands and Natural Resource Operations, in the B.C. Legislature on Thursday, June 17, 2021:
Hon. N. Cullen: As this session comes to an end, it is a time of reflection and gratitude for the incredible privilege we all share to serve this beautiful province to the best of our abilities. This has been a most challenging and painful time, as well, facing the dual epidemics of COVID and the opioid crisis, and the incredibly heart wrenching discoveries of the 215 young bodies buried in unmarked graves in Kamloops.
On Monday, it is National Indigenous Peoples Day, of course. This year, I will be driving the 14 hours from my home here in Smithers, on Wet’suwet’en Gidimt’en territory, up the road to Lower Post, on Kaska Dena territory.
I’ll be joining the Premier, the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation and the Member of Parliament Taylor Bachrach at the invitation of the Kaska Dena. We will be there to witness a ceremony that should in fact have happened decades ago: the tearing down — the demolishing — of the residential school.
The Kaska were forced to enter this building for many, many years. As deputy chief Harlan Shelling said: “The Lower Post Residential School building has been a dark cloud over our people for far too long and stood in the centre of our community as a reminder of a very painful past.”
We are not just there to demolish that building, but we are there to build something new. With the support of the federal government and Minister of State Marc Miller, we are building a new building with the Kaska — a government building; a cultural, education and recreational centre for their people. As Taku River Tlingit spokesperson John Ward said: “I believe this event can lead the way for all of Canada, because all of Canada needs to heal.”
This has been a most difficult time for many, but as we emerge from this pandemic, we are filled with a sense of hope and gratitude, and we as a province and as a country must face our past together because perhaps together, we can heal.
P. Milobar: Thank you for the words from the minister of state, as well. Certainly, as we approach Indigenous day on Monday and reflecting on the discovery in Kamloops of the 215 lost children, what it has done for us as a community, as a nation, in terms of a conversation around reconciliation and how serious it is that we all move forward in a good way and in a meaningful way…. Certainly, the events that have led to the Lower Post being able to find the support from governments, finally, federal and provincial, for the removal of their school — they’re asking — is a very important step.
We all know that First Nations have a very complicated history with the residential school system, and I say that because there are some Nations that have chosen not to remove their schools, so we cannot just assume that all schools need to be removed.
But we need to be working in a much quicker fashion to support, across jurisdictions, federal and provincial, those Nations that do choose to remove these buildings that have inflicted so much generational pain amongst their people.
Because it shouldn’t take decades to help facilitate and move forward with something like this. It shouldn’t take decades, frankly, to make sure there’s clean drinking water. If we are going to be truly, meaningfully engaging in reconciliation, we need to be taking the requests and the asks, moving forward, from these Indigenous Nations quite seriously, and actually find ways to action them.
The Lower Post removal is a good step in that direction, and it makes us all happy to know that that will finally happen at the direction of the leadership up in Lower Post. I look forward to more meaningful, tangible actions towards reconciliation in the days, weeks, and months and years ahead.
Source: BC Hansard