Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he is “appalled” at the “shameful policy” that ripped Indigenous children from their families and placed them in residential schools — a policy that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission found in 2015 amounted to a “cultural genocide.”
Trudeau offered sombre words today about the remains of 215 children on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, calling it “heartbreaking news.”
He says he plans to speak with his three cabinet ministers who oversee Indigenous policy and funding on what steps must be done to support survivors, families and Indigenous Peoples.
Federal New Democrats are calling for an emergency debate in the House of Commons on the grisly discovery in British Columbia.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says the government has not done enough to implement the 94 calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which spent years studying the government-sponsored, church-run institutions.
A number of the commission’s calls to action focus on the horrors inflicted on children and made recommendations on how governments, justice systems and church officials should try to locate, name and commemorate those who died.
Trudeau signalled he supports Singh’s call for an emergency debate.
“Sadly, this is not an exception or an isolated incident. 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,” Trudeau says.
“People are hurting and we must be there for survivors.”
Singh says it is not good enough for the Liberal government to offer platitudes and make symbolic gestures, such as lowering flags on Parliament Hill to half-mast.
He wants the government to do more, working in partnership with First Nations communities, to investigate and fully fund the identification of other sites where children were buried in unmarked graves.
When asked about his message to families mourning the loss of their children, Singh paused for a long time at his podium, tears in his eyes, replying only that he is sorry and will fight for justice for these families.
With files to the Canadian Press.