Chiefs tell Trudeau they expect solid action on reconciliation

'Kumbaya' time over: chief

UPDATE: 3:15 p.m.

“Kumbaya” time is over, according to the national chief of Canada’s Assembly of First Nations, who called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take firm action on reconciliation.

Chief RoseAnne Archibald was among the First Nations dignitaries who met Monday with Trudeau during his visit to Tk’emlups te Secwepemc, and she said her message for him was clear.

“I wanted to reiterate to him that actions are what we need. We need to see actions,” Archibald said.

“The Canadian government, for the last 150 years or more, has spent billions of dollars trying to destroy our communities. They created these institutions of genocide, they have stolen our lands, they have taken resources without proper compensation — and that has to stop.

“I let the prime minister know that there is a healing path forward. I want him to walk that healing path with us.”

Archibald said the time for talk and platitudes is over.

“The healing path forward is not Kumbaya and ‘la la la’ and, ‘Let’s walk this path together,’” she said.

“It’s about reparations, it’s about action — and we expect that moving forward, and we’re going to work in a collaborative and co-operative way on that.”

Earlier in the day on Monday, Trudeau pledged “concrete action.”

Tk’emlups Chief Rosanne Casimir said she hopes those steps forward will include, for her band, funding for a healing centre, an elders’ lodge and a museum.

A healing centre would help those impacted by the residential school system access supports, and an elders’ lodge would allow aging band members to access care to make sure they can live dignified lives at home for as long as possible.

Casimir said a museum would allow the band to share its history with the community and remember its past.

“It’s about remembering who we are and where we came from,” she said.

“We can house artifacts and our museum in a place we can pass on from generation to generation.”

UPDATE: 12:15 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said once again he is committed to working with Tk’emlups te Secwepemc and other Canadian First Nations on reconciliation, promising "concrete actions."

Trudeau is in Kamloops on Monday, meeting with leaders from Tk’emlups te Secwepemc and other First Nations dignitaries.

“We will continue to work together on important issues, whether it’s the healing centre this community has been working on for a long time, or an elders’ lodge, or designation of historic sites, or working together to make sure we’re finding answers,” Trudeau said on Monday morning, also mentioning the possibility of “investing in a museum.”

“These are all concrete actions.”

Trudeau’s visit comes two weeks after Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which took place on Sept. 30 — made a holiday in June, days after the May 27 announcement from Tk’emlups Chief Rosanne Casimir that unmarked grave sites had been located on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

Tk’emlups leaders invited Trudeau to take part in the band’s ceremonies on Sept. 30, but he opted to instead go on a family vacation on Vancouver Island — a decision for which he apologized again on Monday.

“As I said, I deeply regret not having been here to commemorate and move forward with Tk’emlups te Secwepemc,” he said.

“It is something that we need to commit ourselves to do better on every single day as a government, and me as an individual.”

Trudeau thanked Casimir for having him.

“After Sept. 30, she could have chosen to turn her back on me and the government,” he said.

“Yet, she reached out and said, ‘Please come and listen and learn, and we will walk this path together.’ That is why I am here.”

Castanet Kamloops has a reporter at the arbour, where events involving Trudeau and Casimir will continue into the afternoon.

This story will be updated.

UPDATE 11:35 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir are holding a media availability and are taking questions. The event was scheduled to start at 11:30 a.m.

ORIGINAL 6:15 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to visit Kamloops today, where the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Nation announced it had found what are believed to be some 200 unmarked graves at the site of a former residential school last spring.

Since May, numerous Indigenous nations have reported finding unmarked graves at former residential schools with the same ground-penetrating radar technology used in Kamloops, prompting calls for justice that have resonated across the world.

Monday's visit comes after Trudeau apologized to Chief Rosanne Casimir earlier this month for not having accepted invitations to attend the nation's event marking Canada's first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30.

He faced backlash for travelling to Tofino with his family instead of appearing at any in-person events to honour survivors of the state-sponsored residential institutions where Indigenous children were torn from their families and abused.

Trudeau had spoken with some survivors by telephone on Sept. 30 and attended an event on Parliament Hill the night before, and later said it was a "mistake" to travel.

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc issued a statement saying it was not interested in apologies that don't lead to real change and action to support healing for residential school survivors and the revitalization of Indigenous culture and languages.

The First Nation has called on Ottawa to fund a new healing centre for survivors and their families in the Kamloops area and for the full disclosure of government records related to children who attended the institution there.

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