Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today the pain and grief Indigenous communities are feeling after a preliminary report of 751 unmarked graves found near a former residential school in Saskatchewan is “Canada’s responsibility to bear.”
“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,” Trudeau said in a media statement.
“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 Cowessess First Nation announced a preliminary finding today of 751 unmarked graves at a cemetery near the former Marieval Indian Residential School.
The Marieval Indian Residential School operated from 1899 to 1996 in the area where Cowessess is now located, about 140 kilometres east of Regina. People from southeast Saskatchewan and southwestern Manitoba attended the school.
“This is not a mass grave site. These are unmarked graves,” Cowessess Chief Cadmus Delorme told a virtual news conference this morning.
Delorme said there may have been markers for the graves at one point. He said the Roman Catholic church, which managed the cemetery, may have removed markers at some point in the 1960s.
He said it’s not immediately clear whether all of the unmarked graves belonged to children. Oral tradition in Cowesses First Nation says that both children and adults were buried there, Delorme said.
This discovery follows a similar discovery last month at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in B.C. announced the discovery of a gravesite adjacent to the former residential school and said that preliminary findings indicate the remains of 215 children are buried there.
“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,” Trudeau said in his statement.
“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.”
‘Not good enough’: Marion Buller
Marion Buller, who served as chief commissioner of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, said today she wants to hear more from the prime minister than just “thoughts and prayers.”
“It’s a nice statement. A very well-crafted statement of sympathy and empathy but there’s no action there,” Buller told CBC News Network.
Buller pointed out that Trudeau has said repeatedly that no relationship is more important to Canada than the Crown-Indigenous relationship.
“Prove it with concrete action. Release the documents. Stop the action in federal court regarding the application of Jordan’s principle. Take responsibility. Acknowledge. Move forward. Come up with things that we all can do, that you can do [as] government if you’re re-elected,” Buller told host Suhana Meharchand.
“Not just thoughts and prayers. That’s not good enough. It’s nice, but it’s not good enough.”