(O’Toole and Singh’s statements below)
PRIME Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday said that he was “terribly saddened” to learn that the remains of children had been found in unmarked graves near the former Marieval (Cowessess) Residential School in Saskatchewan. He added: “My heart breaks for the Cowessess First Nation, and for all Indigenous communities across Canada.”
Trudeau’s statement came after Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme announced in a virtual news conference that they had found 751 unmarked graves on the site of the former residential school, which was run by the Roman Catholic Church. But Delorme said that they could not affirm if the graves all contain children’s remains.
Trudeau said in his statement: “No child should have ever been taken away from their families and communities, and robbed of their language, culture, and identity. No child should have spent their precious youth subjected to terrible loneliness and abuse. No child should have spent their last moments in a place where they lived in fear, never to see their loved ones again. And no families should have been robbed of the laughter and joy of their children playing, and the pride of watching them grow in their community.
“I recognize these findings only deepen the pain that families, survivors, and all Indigenous peoples and communities are already feeling, and that they reaffirm a truth that they have long known. The hurt and the trauma that you feel is Canada’s responsibility to bear, and the government will continue to provide Indigenous communities across the country with the funding and resources they need to bring these terrible wrongs to light. While we cannot bring back those who were lost, we can – and we will – tell the truth of these injustices, and we will forever honour their memory.
“The findings in Marieval and Kamloops are part of a larger tragedy. They are a shameful reminder of the systemic racism, discrimination, and injustice that Indigenous peoples have faced – and continue to face – in this country. And together, we must acknowledge this truth, learn from our past, and walk the shared path of reconciliation, so we can build a better future.”
CONSERVATIVE Party Leader Erin O’Toole said in a statement: “Today, the Cowessess First Nation confirmed the heartbreaking news of the discovery of 751 unmarked graves at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan.
“Canada’s Conservatives acknowledge the deep sorrow and mourning that all Indigenous people and survivors of Residential Schools are experiencing at this time, and our hearts grieve for the Cowessess First Nation and the surrounding Indigenous communities who are sharing in this trauma.
“This discovery is a somber reminder that so much more work needs to be done to address the devastating and harmful effects that residential schools had, and still have, on many survivors today.
“Conservatives have called for a swift timeline and funding to deliver on the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action 71 to 76 involving missing children and providing healing for families. We pledge our support for this effort and again ask for Prime Minister Trudeau to take action ahead of Canada Day to support the Indigenous communities, and our country, in mourning.”
FEDERAL NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh made the following statement: “Words are not enough to respond to the devastating news out of the Cowessess First Nation today. Chief Cadmus Delorme’s announcement that 751 unmarked graves have been found at Marieval Residential School is heartbreaking and further proof of the genocide against Indigenous people in this country.
“To the elders, survivors and family members who are reliving loss and trauma today after hearing this news – I wish you all peace and healing.
“As Cindy Blackstock, Chief Perry Bellegarde and Marie Wilson, former commissioner of Truth and Reconciliation Commission, have all said: this news is tragic but it is not surprising. Hundreds of brave residential school survivors and elders have shared their painful stories with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Stories of violence and abuse against children at the hands of the Catholic Church and the federal government.
“The government has to do everything in its power to work with Indigenous communities to bring their children home. New Democrats will keep pushing the government for a robust federal plan involving independent oversight and independent processes as called for by First Nations and other experts. This plan must involve adequate support including for criminal investigations. All Church records must be turned over to ensure justice for Indigenous families. It’s crucial that all of the communities whose children were taken be consulted and informed when these searches are happening. People need an opportunity to prepare themselves for these incredibly difficult discoveries.
“Indigenous people deserve more than words and promises. These horrific discoveries make it undeniably clear: the federal government has failed and is continuing to fail First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities.
“The Liberal government has to implement every one of the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation commission. They have to stop underfunding health care and education for First Nations. They have to stop fighting Indigenous children in court. They must address the systemic racism Indigenous peoples face in all Canadians institutions like the RCMP. They have to do the work to implement UNDRIP to change the laws and practices that perpetuate discrimination against Indigenous peoples.
“We cannot look away. We have to teach every Canadian child about our country’s history of genocide and about the incredible strength of Indigenous peoples who survived and endured.”