Prime Minister Trudeau delivers remarks on his visit to Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc
Weyt-kp. Thank you very much for being here today.
First, I want to, again, thank Kúkpi7 Casimir for welcoming me to Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc. I had the opportunity this morning to apologize to her and to the community in person for not having been here on September 30th.
This morning we had an important and necessary conversation about how we, not just as Canadians but as an entire country, move forward, given the reality of residential schools, and the ongoing tragedy that continues to colour not just our past, not just our present, but unfortunately also our future.
This morning, I was reminded of sitting in the same… the same community centre, the same place that I visited just before the election in 2015, where I first learned of the memorial presented to Wilfred Laurier back in 1910 that sketched out a path of -- it wasn't called reconciliation then -- but a path forward for the country that would see Indigenous and non-Indigenous people share and partner and build a better future for everyone. As we know, that was not the story of the 20th century in terms of relations with Indigenous Peoples and the government.
Instead, it was a story of residential schools, of kids ripped from their families, taken from their communities, prevented from learning their languages, their cultures, made to suffer neglect, loneliness, and abuse; an experience from which far too many never got to return home to their families, and were left instead in unmarked graves across this country.
I want to salute the leadership of Kúkpi7 Casimir and the council, and the knowledge keepers who have tended that sacred site, who knew that there were children waiting to be found. People had heard the stories, people had seen their loved ones, their children, their cousins, their friends disappear. The truth needed to be told.
So, through the leadership of this community and other communities across the country, Canada has begun to face the reality of the truth of this country; that we allowed kids to be taken from their language and culture, neglected and abused; and that is not just a piece of our past that we need to reflect on, it’s a piece of our present. We see it in the struggles that are faced by Indigenous Canadians to a high… to a much higher degree than non-indigenous Canadians.
I am moved to see so much interest from non-indigenous Canadians and the media and people across the country who were so shaken by the revelation of these graves, because before we can get to reconciliation, we need to talk about truth, and the truth of what these children experienced decades and generations ago lingers today; has an impact today in systemic discrimination, in tragedies in our cities, in our institutions, as was faced by Joyce Echaquan and so many others.
The lived reality from so many Canadians of residential schools continues.
And we cannot pretend that reconciliation is just about Indigenous Peoples and the government -- although of course that's an important part of it -- reconciliation is also about every single Canadian, because every single Canadian; while residential schools were teaching Indigenous kids that they had no value, every other school was teaching non-Indigenous kids that Indigenous languages and cultures had no value.
So, it is upon all of us to walk this road of reconciliation together. It is on all of us to be present and to commit to the hard work that needs to be done.
I am here today to say I wish I had been here a few weeks ago, and I deeply regret it, but I am here today to take the hand… extend it by Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and so many Indigenous Canadians across this country who have every reason in the world to feel pessimistic and bleak about the future, and instead choose hope, choose to continue to be present for the hard work, ready to partner and make a better community and a better life, not just for Indigenous Peoples, but for everyone who lives here. And that readiness to build and partner and work together is an inspiration to me and should be an inspiration to all Canadians as we work every day to make Canada better for everyone.
We have a lot of work ahead of us, and I am here today and every day to say that we’re here to do the work and that we are deeply grateful for the leadership of Indigenous Peoples of this country who continue to believe in and work for a better world for everyone, despite all the challenges they have experienced over the decades and generations. We have work to do and we will do it.
Thank you very much for being here today.