Chief Casimir calls Prime Minister's visit to Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc 'bittersweet' | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Chief Casimir calls Prime Minister's visit to Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc 'bittersweet'

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke alongside Chief Rosanne Casimir on Oct. 18, 2021 at the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc pow wow arbour, marking his first visit since the unmarked graves of 215 children were found in May 2021.

After snubbing Tk'emlups te Secwepemc and flying to Tofino on the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the community today and met with the community leaders.

Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir called the Prime Minister's visit today, Oct. 18, "bittersweet."

"The shock, anger, sorrow and disbelief was palpable in our community," Casimir said of the moment she heard Trudeau was in Tofino on Sept. 30.

The two leaders met ahead of an event at the Tk'emlups pow wow arbour on Oct. 18, where they spoke about Trudeau's failure to respond to the First Nation's invitations to their Truth and Reconciliation Day event and about partnering on projects in the future.

While the Band hosted an event at the Tk'emlups pow wow arbour on Sept. 30, Trudeau faced a backlash that garnered national attention when he was found to be vacationing in Tofino.

"Instead of talking about truth and reconciliation, people talked about me, and that's on me. I take responsibility for that," Trudeau said. "I have many regrets about Sept. 30 and my decision to travel. The first, of course, was not being able to attend the commemorations here."

The Band has said that concrete action following the discovery of 215 unmarked graves of children near the Kamloops Indian Residential School should involve the building of a healing centre to support survivors of Indian residential schools and intergenerational trauma.

Casimir raised the need for a healing centre again today, and while no promises were given by Trudeau to have that centre built, he touted the federal government's Bill C-92.

The bill is designed to give Indigenous communities funding options to help at-risk Indigenous children who may otherwise be taken from their families into foster care.

The practice is known to take Indigenous children away from their families and their traditional communities, leaving them without connections to their culture. The Bill acknowledges that each community may have their own specific needs, so it allows for each community to negotiate their own funding and service models.

Bill C-92 was adopted in 2018 and Trudeau noted that Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan recently signed a deal with the federal government through the Act.

Cowessess notably followed the lead from Tk'emlups and located over 750 unmarked graves near the Indian residential school in their community with ground penetrating radar detection, similar to that used at Tk'emlups te Secwepemc.

Trudeau said he confirmed to Tk'emlups leadership that his government will be partnering with the community to explore the possibility of a healing centre, funding the Tk'emlups museum or designating a National Historic Site at the Band.

Tk'emlups te Secwepemc has been at the centre of a national reckoning over the legacy of Canada's Indian residential schools. They announced the findings of 215 unmarked graves near the former Kamloops Indian residential school in May 2021, and while it is six years after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded its work, First Nations communities across the country began their own searches for unmarked graves and found the bodies of hundreds of children that were never returned home.

Thirteen of the 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission have been completed, with 29 having projects underway. The remainder have not been started or have not passed the proposal stage.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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