Singh meets with Indigenous leaders at residential school where unmarked graves found

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, June 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

KAMLOOPS, B.C. - NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is reiterating demands for more concrete action after meeting with Indigenous leaders at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., that bears unmarked graves.

In front of the institution's brick entrance, Singh told reporters that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must make good on his six-year-old pledge to fulfil all 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

He also asked Ottawa to drop its legal battles against a pair of rulings involving First Nations children, and demanded further progress in areas from clean drinking water on reserves to housing and climate action.

Singh choked up as he described walking near a burial site detected by ground-penetrating radar and holding what are believed to be the remains of 215 children.

"This is where it happened ... 215 little kids," he said. "I'm struck by how hard it is to be here, a lot harder than I thought it would be."

Singh is the first federal leader to meet with Tk'emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir following the announcement of the graves in May.

The federal government said last month it will substantially increase funding beyond the $27.1 million pledged in the 2019 budget for searches for unmarked graves.

The funding announcement followed recent discoveries of more than 1,000 unmarked graves at residential school sites that continue to traumatize Canada's Indigenous Peoples.

Trudeau has acknowledged that governments continue to remove Indigenous children from their communities and place them in far-flung foster homes for the purported reason of protecting their well-being as a legacy of earlier attempts at cultural genocide.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 29, 2021.

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