Dear Constituents, a few updates from my office:
Discovery of a Mass Grave at the former Kamloops Residential School
Last week, the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation uncovered the remains of 215 children in a mass grave at the site of a former residential school outside Kamloops. This tragedy has had a profound effect on Indigenous communities and on our country as a whole.
While communities and families grapple with this unthinkable and tragic revelation, we must come together to provide whatever assistance is necessary to aid in the healing process, including the resources needed to protect, honour, and identify the children. This discovery is a somber reminder that so much more work needs to be done to address the devastating and harmful effects that residential schools had, and still have, on many survivors today.
My Speech on the Kamloops Discovery
Last evening, I had the privilege and responsibility to address the discovery of the mass grave in the House of Commons. You can watch my speech here, or read the speech text here. It was important for me to deliver these remarks, as it is highly likely that some of these lost Indigenous children were born and raised in our riding of Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon.
My speech was informed largely by a fortuitous encounter I had this week at Mission Heritage Park. While I was there in a meeting with staff, I could not get this anticipated speech out of my mind. I was struggling with what I could say that would do justice to the grief and trauma caused by the residential school system that my Indigenous constituents must live with and endure.
That was when I noticed a small group of Indigenous constituents walking from the site of the former St. Mary’s Residential School. I went over and introduced myself, and we had a lengthy and respectful conversation. I found out that the matriarch of the family, who had gone to St. Mary's to pay homage to her brother lost in Kamloops, was part of three generations of their family who had gone to that school and had suffered at the hands of the church and the federal government.
On my Facebook page, you will find a video of their homage to the lost 215 children at Kamloops Residential School, and to the many more who suffered at residential schools across Canada. I was honoured that they asked me to film and observe their solemn commemoration to share with all of you.
The legacy of residential schools is a national shame that has had a profoundly lasting and damaging impact on Indigenous culture, heritage, and language. I know there is lots to do.
Our Leader Erin O’Toole wrote the Prime Minister this week, calling upon the federal government to take consequential action to assist the families and Indigenous communities during their time of sorrow, namely:
- Developing a comprehensive plan to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Calls to Action 71 through 76 by July 1, 2021;
- Funding the investigation at all former residential schools in Canada where unmarked graves may exist, including the site where 215 children have already been discovered;
- Ensuring that proper resources are allocated for communities to reinter, commemorate, and honour any individuals discovered through the investigation, according to the wishes of their next of kin; and
- Developing a detailed and thorough set of resources to educate Canadians of all ages on the tragic history of residential schools in Canada.
Furthermore, Leader O’Toole called on the federal government to move quickly on legislation that addresses reconciliation that is presently before the House of Commons. Last week, Conservatives joined the Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Perry Bellegarde, in his call for the federal government to prioritize Bill C-5 and Bill C-8.
The Conservative Party supports treaty rights and the process of reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples. The TRC report reflected the hard work and dedication to building public awareness about Residential Schools and fostering reconciliation, understanding and respect. So much more needs to be done to address the outstanding recommendations in the Report. These need to be addressed quickly so we can get going on the hard work of tackling issues to improve the lives of Indigenous peoples across Canada.
You’re My Boss
Your input is valued. Please do not hesitate to contact my office to voice your concerns or seek assistance with any federal government programs at 604-814-5710 or [email protected].
Brad Vis, MP