Trudeau to attend Commons debate on unmarked children’s graves at B.C. residential school

Trudeau to attend Commons debate on unmarked children’s graves at B.C. residential school


WARNING: This story contains details some readers may find distressing.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will participate in a take-note debate in the House of Commons tonight on the reported discovery of the remains of more than 200 children at a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia.

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 discovered the remains of 215 children.

On Monday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh asked the Speaker for an emergency debate in the House of Commons. The Conservatives said they would support the call but Speaker Anthony Rota denied the request. Liberal MP Mark Geretsen’s motion to hold a take-note debate today did pass unanimously in the House.

The debate will begin in the House after 6:30 and will last a maximum of four hours. CBC.ca will be streaming the debate live. 

Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir has said the federal government should take immediate steps in response to the discovery of human remains.

“It’s all good and well to the federal government to make gestures of goodwill and support regarding the tragedy,” said Casimir. “There is an important ownership and accountability to both Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and all communities and families that are affected. And that needs to happen and take place.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said Monday he wants the federal government to accelerate its efforts to address the parts of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report that deal with missing children and burial information. 

“The Conservative opposition will support swift and immediate efforts to give families and communities closure and a time for healing,” he said.

Children died in large numbers: report

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which released 94 calls to action six years ago following a lengthy investigation into residential schools, made six recommendations regarding missing children and burial grounds.

It called on the federal government to work with churches, Indigenous communities and former residential school students “to establish and maintain an online registry of residential school cemeteries, including, where possible, plot maps showing the location of deceased residential school children.”

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde said Monday that, given the evidence that children died in residential schools in large numbers, the federal government must follow up at other residential school sites and work toward “the righting of a huge wrong.”

More than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were placed in residential schools between the 1870s and 1996.

The TRC heard moving and tragic accounts of what happened to Indigenous children in residential schools before releasing its monumental 2015 report. Many of the children were physically and sexually abused at the schools.

At least 4,100 children died while attending these schools. Former senator Murray Sinclair, who chaired the TRC, has said he believes the death count could be much higher due to the schools’ poor burial records.

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