Local MP candidates agree action needs to be taken to further reconciliation

Action on reconciliation?

All Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP candidates agree action needs to be taken on First Nations reconciliation, in the wake of the recent discovery of an unmarked graveyard on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

The announcement from Tk'emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir in May was followed by similar news from other First Nations across Canada.

Jesse McCormick, local Liberal candidate, said he is Anishinaabe and has dedicated much of his career to helping Indigenous people advance their rights and interests.

He said he was “very pleased” to see an announcement from the Minister of Justice and Attorney General to appoint an individual who will work to strengthen laws and practices in regards to protecting and preserving unmarked burial sites.

“It's necessary to collaborate with Indigenous partners to figure out how we can improve the laws, policies and practices so we're better placed to deal with these things and that’s all got to come from the leadership of First Nations. And that's why it's so important that First Nations are supported in taking on this work,” he said.

“There's an enormous gap in terms of the life experiences between Indigenous peoples in Canada and the rest of Canada. And I think it's something that's incumbent on all of us.”

Frank Caputo, Conservative candidate, said it’s important the federal government implements the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission where they apply.

“We as government need to listen to Indigenous leaders and Indigenous citizens when they tell us what they need,” Caputo said.

He said the Conservative party is committing $1 billion over five years to fund Indigenous mental health and treatment programs, and plans are in the works for housing initiatives that will benefit marginalized people.

“I believe our campaign platform is the beginning of government's role in that," Caputo said.

"And I'm committed to doing my part if elected. But I'm also committed to doing everything I can on an individual level.”

Independent candidate Bob O’Brien said it’s clear that First Nations have not been treated fairly by the government, and reconciliation would mean listening to the needs of Indigenous people.

“I think you have to earn their trust and respect and then and then see what they want and listen to them,” O’Brien said.

“Being elected here, I would represent the people here. So I would like for them to realize that I'm not trying to represent Ottawa to them. I'm representing them to Ottawa.”

According to Bill Sundhu, the NDP candidate, the government needs to take “meaningful steps” to implement the 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Additionally, Sundhu said the government should pay for work to investigate unmarked graves and prosecute any offenders still living.

“We need to harness every resource to help properly and respectfully, using forensic expertise, find the graves, compile evidence, return whatever remains are desired to be returned to their home communities and their families, to do it respectfully in consultation with families in those Indigenous First Nations,” Sundhu said.

“We also need to have a criminal investigation and an independent special prosecutor. Because if there are offenders that may still be alive, then they should be prosecuted. And the full cost of this should be borne by the Canadian state. This is our collective responsibility.”

Iain Currie, Green Party candidate, agreed the government should seek to comply with recommendations from a variety of commissions — including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls report — and should regularly report on its progress.

“Those are Indigenous-led responses, and we can apologize and we can compensate, and must do all those things. But those are just first steps. Those are the easy steps. The hard steps are taking are taking what Indigenous people are telling Canada it needs to do and to take those seriously and to act on them.”

Wayne Allan, independent candidate, said it took him decades for his status as a First Nations person to be recognized.

“For people who lived off the reserve, those people have been denied their status for years, my mother was 71, before she got her status,” Allan said.

He said he would work to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, calling for actions involving Indigenous people living both on and off reserve.

Corally Delwo, candidate for the People’s Party of Canada, said to her, reconciliation means recognizing what has happened and working to fix past wrongs.

“We need to get resources to these communities so that they can heal from this. We need to improve their way of life,” Delwo said.

“We want to move forward with Indigenous communities on the premise of respect, freedom, fairness and responsibility. And what that means is, our government wants to explore options that will replace the paternalistic Indian Act. Because that's keeping Indigenous people in the state of dependency and allowing the federal government to control most aspects of their lives, which I don't think is agreeable."

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