Supporting healing for those impacted by St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School
Thank you, Kúkpi7 Willie for your words and your leadership.
I want to begin by thanking the elders, the drummers, the singers, the community members and leaders who welcomed us today onto the territory of the Williams Lake First Nations and the Secwépemc Nation. It's an opportunity to engage, to listen, to learn.
I want to thank the elected officials who are here, including Todd Doherty, a fellow MP.
I want to thank National Chief RoseAnne Archibald who is here, because this is really an important moment for this community to be coming together, and an important moment for me to be hearing from them, but it's also an important moment along the path of reconciliation and truth that we must walk as a country. And the leadership that Willie and this community and council have shown in incredibly difficult times is one that I am deeply moved by and glad to be here with today.
As we are gathering here today, I begin by thinking also about the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis leadership right now at the Vatican this week talking about the terrible history that we are remembering and dealing with here today, but that also requires a response and an apology from the Catholic Church and the Pope, and I want to tell those strong and brave leaders in Rome today that we are with them as a government but also as a country.
We started this afternoon… started this morning with an opportunity to sit down with elders where they shared some of the pain and impacts of their times as survivors of residential schools, of the St. Joseph's Mission residential school. Many of them spent years not talking, not thinking about that incredibly difficult time in their life when they were students at that so-called “school.” But to help the community heal, to help the community get closure, and understand where and what happened there to some of their fellow students; they shared over the past days and weeks sometimes stories that they'd never shared before because they were too painful.
The courage and the strength of those elders touches us all deeply, and it is that desire not to look to the past, but understand the past to build a better future, that we are coming together today. Canada is committed to continuing funding for the Williams Lake First Nation in its continued search for truth and healing and closure. We're announcing $2.9 million today for Phase 2 of the work they're doing. There will be more phases and more funding to come, but right now the focus on documenting and finding the truth, but also on supporting survivors, supporting a community that is being re-traumatized, as so many are across the country by the terrible findings of 93 reflections, knowing there are so many more out there still to be found, to be remembered, to be honoured, and we will be continued partners in this difficult moment, as long as it takes.
I also got the opportunity to sit down with the Chief and Council to talk about issues of importance; that one of the most important ones is ensuring that everything is done to make sure that all the information, all the records that exist out there be made fully available to this community, to find the truth, to give closure, to track down and honour the memories of all those lives lost in this shared history that is such a dark one of residential schools, both for this community and communities around, but also for the whole country.
And as we reflect on the path of truth and reconciliation that we need to walk; we need to understand that this is not just the history of the Secwépemc Nation or of Williams Lake First Nation, it's not just the history of Indigenous Peoples, it's Canada's history. And it is on all of us to be part of the learning, the grieving, the truth and the reconciliation that this requires.
People continue to think that reconciliation is about Indigenous Peoples or is about Indigenous Peoples and the government, but at the same time as those so-called residential schools were teaching Indigenous children that they had no worth and no value, every other school in this country was teaching non-Indigenous kids that Indigenous kids had no value.
This is our history as a country, and until we properly grasp it and engage with it, understand it, and commit ourselves to better, then we’re not living up to the kind of country we all like to think we are. We have work to do.
We still have a long way to go on our path to reconciliation, but it has to involve everyone, all Canadians have a responsibility to be present, to be engaged, to be aware, to be accountable, not just for our part to play…that we played…our ancestors played in the past, but to be accountable for today and for the future.
The impacts of residential schools that have been closed for a long time are not just in the history, they’re today. They continue in intergenerational trauma, in socioeconomic outcomes, in challenges around mental health and addictions, and loss of opportunity and loss of identity and loss of language, that mean we have work to do now -- long after the last residential school closed -- that we need to continue to do to heal and to move forward.
And that is the commitment Canada, and Canadians, continue to make every day as we stand in partnership with Indigenous peoples on a real path forward for us all.
Thank you, everyone.