Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation Chief has joined calls for the Canadian Government and the Catholic Church to release Indian Residential School records.
Chief Rosanne Casimir has called upon Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Mission Oblates of Mary Immaculate, which fall under the Catholic Church, to open Indian Residential School student records to enable more than 200 children found at Kamloops Indian Residential School to be identified.
In late May, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announced they had discovered the bodies of 215 children at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
Chief Casimir has urged Provincial and Federal Governments to support her community in their searches and investigations through the dedication of funding and resources.
“To the Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, we’re still waiting for you to reach out to us to acknowledge the latest truths from the Kamloops Indian Residential School,” she said at a press conference in Kamloops, British Columbia.
The discovery at Kamloops triggered a chain of events in various First Nation communities across the nation, resulting in more discoveries of remains on the sites of former Indian Residential Schools.
Over 100 remains were found at the former Brandon Indian Residential School in Manitoba, more than 750 at the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan, and 182 at the former St Eugene’s Mission School in British Columbia.
Radar specialist Sarah Beaulieu, who is working at the Kamloops site, said only two acres of the 160-acre residential school site has been searched with the ground-penetrating radar.
Beaulieu and Chief Casimir said the discoveries were only made because of survivors.
“We are here today because of Indian Residential School survivors and intergenerational survivors who were unrelenting in carrying those painful truths about missing children forward,” Chief Casimir said.
Chief Casimir added that many survivors witnessed and were victim to abuse, and because of their truth-telling, children who were lost are now being found.
The press conference also heard from survivors of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, including Mona Jules.
Jules lost her 13-year-old sister to sickness at Kamloops and said their parents were never told about her death.
“They wanted to know, why wasn’t she taken to a doctor, to the hospital? It was right across the bridge,” she said.
“There were no answers.”
The institution stripped many children of their cultural rights and their language. However, Jules remains fluent, and has spent her life supporting others on their language journeys.
“I’ve spent years trying to revive what that school has snuffed out. And it’s working — we have many of our young people who speak it and they’re running language departments, having meetings in the language [and] speaking it to one another,” she said.
“I still work with them, when I can, and I’ll continue to do that for as long as I can.”
By Rachael Knowles