Days after children’s remains reported, Trudeau says more help coming for residential school survivors

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says more supports for survivors of residential schools are coming following the heartbreaking report of the discovery of children’s remains in Kamloops, B.C.

The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation said last Thursday that preliminary findings from a survey of the grounds at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School uncovered the remains of 215 children — some as young as three years old. 

What those federal supports will look like is still unclear. Trudeau said he’ll meet with some of his cabinet later today to discuss next steps to aid survivors and the community.

“People are hurting and we must be there for the survivors,” he said this morning ahead of an announcement about Black entrepreneurs.

“Sadly, this is not an exception or an isolated incident. We’re not going to hide from that. We have to acknowledge the truth. Residential schools were a reality — a tragedy that existed here, in our country, and we have to own up to it.”

Opposition pushing for emergency debate

The Liberal government is under mounting pressure to announce concrete steps following last week’s news.

The Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) is calling on both the federal government and the Roman Catholic Church to take action.

“Well-wishes and prayers only go so far,” Angela White, executive director for the IRSSS, said Friday.

Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir also has said the federal government should take immediate action.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) issued a statement Monday calling the discovery of the remains “shocking.”

“It rekindles trauma in numerous communities across this land. Honouring the dignity of the lost little ones demands that the truth be brought to light,” said Richard Gagnon, the group’s president.

“As we see ever more clearly the pain and suffering of the past, the Bishops of Canada pledge to continue walking side by side with Indigenous Peoples in the present, seeking greater healing and reconciliation for the future.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is seeking an emergency debate in the House of Commons, which Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner says her party will support.

Singh — who appeared visibly shaken during his news conference today and at one point choked back tears — is also calling on the federal government to search the grounds of other former residential schools. 

“It is not good enough for the federal Liberal government to just make symbolic gestures,” Singh told reporters during a news conference in Ottawa this morning.

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