Tk'emlups chief calls for accountability from Prime Minister following discovery of mass burial site | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Tk'emlups chief calls for accountability from Prime Minister following discovery of mass burial site

Community members showed an outpouring of support after radar studies confirmed a mass unmarked burial site near the former residential school.
June 01, 2021 - 11:30 AM

The sacred fire ceremonies to honour those buried at the former Kamloops residential school have been extinguished, but the work at Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc is far from over.

Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir thanked those who supported the community in the wake of the preliminary findings in a statement released to the media, but also called for more action from the federal government.

"To the Prime Minister and all federal parties, we acknowledge your gestures, but as a community who is burdened with the legacy of a federally mandated Indian Residential School, Canada must face ownership and accountability to Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc as well as all communities and families," the statement reads.

"Our community is still gathering all the facts in this evolving tragedy. We will keep you informed as more information comes to light."

READ MORE: Kamloops residential school mass grave stark reminder of lack of progress on TRC Calls to Action

The call from Casimir and council come in the wake of work taken on by the band to use penetrating radar detection to locate burial sites near the school. The full report of preliminary findings is projected to be released by mid-June, but on May 28, the band confirmed the remains of at least 215 children were buried near the school grounds.

Over the weekend, memorial ceremonies were held at the former school and the nearby powwow arbor.

"We have heard from many survivors, from our own community and beyond. They are finally being heard after so many years of silence and disbelief about the deaths of children in the residential schools," Casimir said in the statement. "Regrettably, we know that many more children are unaccounted for."

READ MORE: The lasting impact of surviving Kamloops residential school

"We have heard that the same knowing of unmarked burial sites exists at other former residential school grounds. It was something that the (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) raised in the early days of their work."

The commission tried to explore and identify those sites and was turned down twice by the federal government, she said.

Not only does the First Nation call on action from the federal government, but also asks all Canadians to reacquaint themselves with the TRC final report and Calls to Action.

READ MORE: Kamloops woman recalls how family was fractured by residential school system

First Nations Summit, Union of BC Indian Chiefs and BC Assembly of First Nations have asked the Prime Minister and the federal government in a joint statement released today to establish a "proper response and legal framework governing the protection and investigation of the unmarked mass burial site,"

"Mass and unmarked graves are clear evidence of the commission of massive human rights and humanitarian law violations," the statement reads. "This calls for immediate accountability by Canada because it is likely the mass grave arose due to the failure of the State to protect the right to life of First Nations children at the residential school.

"The unmarked burial site also points to violations of 'last rites' and the denial of burial rights and respectful handling of human remains of our people."

Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc is now accepting donations to continue their work at the former residential school. All inquiries regarding donations can be directed to

If you find yourself in need of support please contact one of these organizations:

Indian Residential School Survivors: 1-800-721-0066

KUU-US Indigenous crisis line - available 24 hours
Youth Line: 250-723-2040
Adult Line: 250-723-4050

Residential School Crisis line - available 24 hours: 1-866-925-4419

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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