Canadian indigenous people on Thursday called as “insult” the absence of the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, in the ceremonies of the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, on September 30, in which the aboriginal victims of the school residences in Canada were remembered.
The Tkemlúps te secwépemc Indians in western Canada said in a statement that “the lack of response” to the two specific invitations they extended to Trudeau to participate in the events “was an added insult.”
The Tkemlúps te secwépemc explained that Trudeau “never extended his hand” or his sympathies to the community when they announced in May 2021 the discovery of hundreds of unidentified graves with the remains of indigenous children on the grounds of a former school residence in the town of Kamloops.
“The Canadian government was the entity that created the institution of school residences and now it is the leaders of the Canadian government who need to work with indigenous peoples to find the path of truth and reconciliation,” the Tkemlúps te secwépemc noted.
Trudeau’s decision to take advantage of the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, which his own government designated as a day to remember the crimes committed against indigenous people, to vacation with his family on a Pacific island in Canada has caused a political firestorm in the country.
Initially, the Canadian Prime Minister’s office tried to hide that he was on vacation while the rest of the country honored the tens of thousands of indigenous children who were forcibly committed by the government to institutions where they suffered all kinds of abuses and where it is estimated that thousands of them died.
Only after media reports revealed that Trudeau was not in Ottawa — as his official schedule indicated, but on vacation — did his office change its story.
Finally, on Oct. 2, Trudeau spoke to Tkemlúps te secwépemc Chief Rosanne Casimir to apologize for his absence from the Sept. 30 ceremonies, and yesterday publicly acknowledged that it was a “mistake” to have gone on vacation with his family that day.
Indigenous people consider Trudeau hypocritical
This Thursday, Canadian indigenous people stressed that they are not interested in empty apologies.
“Reconciliation begins with actions. Real action and change is what is needed to support recovery, the revitalization of our language, culture, traditions and ways of knowing. Real actions and change is what is needed to support the recovery, the revitalization of our language, culture, traditions and ways of knowing. We are not interested in apologies that do not produce widespread institutional change,” they said in their statement.
The Tkemlups have revealed that on two occasions they formally invited Trudeau to participate in the Sept. 30 ceremonies, but that the prime minister did not even bother to respond. Trudeau also ignored a request to send a recorded message.
Residential schools were part of a system of residential schools established by the Canadian government in the late 19th century, run by religious orders, to eradicate the country’s indigenous cultures.
Indigenous children were forcibly placed in residential schools from an early age. There, the children suffered physical, psychological and sexual abuse. An estimated 150,000 children were placed in these institutions until the last one closed in 1997.
Thousands of children died in the residential schools. In many cases, their families were not informed of the deaths.