Chief and council of Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc issued the following statement today (Oct. 28, 2021) regarding the announcement that Pope Francis plans to visit Canada with respect to reconciliation:
“It would be deeply meaningful to welcome the Holy See, Pope Francis, to Tk’emlups te Secwepemc, as our heart wrenching news was the first of the wave of confirmations of unmarked graves with thousands more lives lost coming to light. It’d be a historic moment for Kamloops Residential Indian School Survivors and for our community who continues to navigate the impacts following the horrific confirmation of the missing children,” declared Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir.
Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc would like to acknowledge the Bishop Joseph Nguyen, the head of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Kamloops, who expressed his “deepest sympathy, profound sorrow and genuine apology” to Tk’emlups te Secwépemc Chief Rosanne Casimir and all of the Kamloops First Nations communities.
Albeit that words of regret and remorse have been expressed by local and regional Roman Catholic representatives, there has never been an apology from the highest level of the Roman Catholic Church.
For the “truth” component of Truth and Reconciliation, there has to be an acknowledgment, of the true role of the Catholic Church in the deaths of children placed in their care. The Kamloops Indian Residential School was established in 1890 first as an Industrial School, then a residential school and finally as a residence in 1968 and was under the administration of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate until 1969. This school falls within the historical boundaries of the Archdiocese of Vancouver.
While the Oblates of Mary Immaculate operated the Kamloops Indian Residential School based on policies and legislation of the Government of Canada, the Roman Catholic Church has repeatedly refused to accept responsibility or formally apologize for its direct role in the numerous and horrific abuses committed against Indigenous children through the Residential School system. The missing children, whom Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc refer to as Le Estcwéý, exemplify Indian Residential Schools as a system that perpetuated mass human rights violations that may suggest criminal behavior, including violations of international humanitarian law, and genocide.
The Catholic Church and its entities have not yet implemented the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations addressed to it, nor have they worked collaboratively with First Nations on the missing children, unmarked burials and documenting a complete record of the treatment of children at the schools. They must demonstrate a real commitment to doing what they have repeatedly promised to do. There are many aspects that the Catholic Church were legally obliged to do including their production of “all relevant Indian Residential School records as well as their legal and moral financial obligations to Indian Residential School Survivors,” which we now know they have evaded perhaps with judicial sanction.
“For the Pope to come to Canada without real action, with simply the objective of reconciliation, glosses over and ignores this hard truth. Though some may wish for reconciliation, Tke̓ mlúps te Secwépemc is still saddled with the truth of identifying hundreds of child victims from the Kamloops Indian Residential School,” stated Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir.
Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc calls upon the Roman Catholic Church to:
- To provide an apology from the highest level of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, as one of the many stages of the healing journey. This is the implementation of Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action #58, which demands the Holy See “issue an apology to Survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools.”
- Accept responsibility for its direct role in the numerous and horrific abuses committed against Indigenous children through the Residential School system, having operated over 70% of all Indian Residential Schools in Canada.
- Demonstrate acts of contrition and living up to the promises made by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops with regards to the disclosure of documents and information to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and of the raising of funds for Indian Residential School survivors.
Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir is confirmed to be a part of the Papal visit in December representing British Columbia as per the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Terry Teegee.