Sol Mamakwa, Clifford Bull comment on Bring Our Children Home gathering
Tim Brody - Editor
WARNING: This story contains details some readers may find distressing.
In a statement he released last Friday, Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa expressed his solidarity with the people of Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc First Nation after they released their report last Thursday outlining the preliminary findings of a search of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School property.
He also commented on the Bring Our Children Home gathering held on July 14 at the former site of the Pelican Lake Indian Residential School and the Lac Seul Events Centre.
“We wish to express our solidarity with the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc First Nation and thank them for sharing the findings of their report, the Kamloops Indian Residential School Le Estcwéý (The Missing) Report. We honour the calls of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc asking the government and the Catholic church again to provide records and resources as they continue the work to uncover potential burial sites near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. The reports preliminary findings confirmed the existence of 200 burials. We are grateful to the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc for their leadership in doing this painful work. Their results today are foundational for all First Nations in Ontario.”
Northern Nishnawbe Education Council (NNEC) and Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority (SLFNHA) with Lac Seul First Nation organized an initial gathering on July 14 called ‘Bring our Children Home’ at the Pelican Falls school site and the Lac Seul Events Centre to determine next steps in moving forward with the search for missing children on the grounds and surrounding area of Pelican Lake Indian Residential School located on Lac Seul traditional territory, Stirland Lake Residential School, Cristal Lake Indian Residential School, Poplar Hill Indian Residential School, McIntosh Residential School sites and the former Sioux Lookout Zone Indian Hospital.
Mamakwa attended and informed that discussions between residential school survivors, forensic experts, and church and government representatives took place.
“We must support Lac Seul First Nation, NNEC and SLFNHA in the work they are doing for the Pelican Falls site. We must do our best to work with Indigenous experts in fields like forensics and archeology. This means that we take their advice and design processes that will honour our ways of life and these ancestors that we are working to bring home. But most importantly the process must be led by survivors and their families and our community leaders.”
Lac Seul First Nation Chief Clifford Bull stated, “True reconciliation and healing comes from sharing our truth as Indigenous peoples, and being acknowledged by the people who have harmed us. The residential schools were Church run and supported by the Canadian Government, and it is important that all Canadians learn about the treatment Indigenous peoples, particularly children, were forced to endure, and the families who lost their love ones at the hands of these institutions.”
“Although our hearts are heavy by the discoveries of these children at former IRS sites, now is the time to unite together and take action, so that we may bring our children home.”
Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance attended the gathering, telling those present, “It’s almost as though the veil has come off Canadian history with what’s happening now with the unmarked graves and we need to take the veil all the way off.”
Keith Conn, Assistant Deputy Minister for Indigenous Service Canada shared, “Indigenous services Canada, I can say with confidence, we will be there, we will make our commitments, and we will provide our supports as appropriate.”
Resources to support those in distress due to the Indian Residential School system include the Indian Residential School Survivors Society at 1-800-721-0066, Indian Residential School (IRS) National Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419, and Nishnawbe Aski Nation’s NAN HOPE program at 1-844-626-4673.