BC Assembly of First Nations (BCAFN) Regional Chief Terry Teegee has released a statement following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to Tk’emlups te Secwepemc in Kamloops today (Oct. 18) saying “expectations are finally being upheld.”
Trudeau’s visit comes two weeks after Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which took place on Sept. 30.
Tk’emlups leaders invited Trudeau to take part in the band’s ceremonies on Sept. 30, but he opted to instead go on a family vacation on Vancouver Island — a decision for which he apologized again on Monday.
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was made a holiday in June, days after the May 27 announcement from Tk’emlups Chief Rosanne Casimir that unmarked grave sites had been located on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
“We were all deeply disappointed and hurt when the Prime Minister chose not to observe and attend ceremonies and events for the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30; instead travelling to Tofino, BC with his family for a vacation. Prime Minister Trudeau had been invited multiple times by Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir to visit the Kamloops Indian Residential School grave sites and was repeatedly ignored,” said Teegee.
“This was not a decision focused on the ideals and aspirations built around reconciliation and instead create a political and social climate loaded with drama and strife.”
Teegee said the actions and attitudes of leaders in Canada are critical in their effectiveness and influence in creating change.
“It is imperative that our leaders be strategic and future-focused and build on each opportunity presented to them to strengthen relationships and further develop trust. It is my expectation that Prime Minister Trudeau and his government will double down on their work toward reconciliation with First Nations.”
During his visit Trudeau said once again he is committed to working with Tk’emlups te Secwepemc and other Canadian First Nations on reconciliation, promising "concrete actions."
“With the recent recoveries of many unmarked graves of children at former residential schools sites, and more to come, many Canadians have made it clear that they want their governments to confront the legacy of colonialism and transform systems of power that reinforce poverty, injustice and genocide,” added Teegee.
He then called for innovative strategies and policies to fully implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples throughout Canada with all Indigenous peoples playing prominent roles at all levels.
“We demand much more substantial actions and resources for the work that needs to be done to recover the truth and build a better future for all Canadians, and we expect no more theatrics, useless gestures and words meant to pacify growing anger and distrust.”
Trudeau spent the day meeting with Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir and leaders from Tk’emlups te Secwepemc and other First Nations dignitaries.
“As I said, I deeply regret not having been here to commemorate and move forward with Tk’emlups te Secwepemc,” said Trudeau.
“It is something that we need to commit ourselves to do better on every single day as a government, and me as an individual.”
- with files from Tim Petruk, Castanet