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Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc report on discovery of unmarked graves in Kamloops expected this month

Last Updated Jun 4, 2021 at 3:26 pm PDT

A memorial grows at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School on May 28, 2021, after the discovery of the remains of 215 children buried there. (Martin MacMahon/NEWS 1130)

'We need to respect their space, to host their ceremonies and ... plan the approach ahead': Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc chief

Chief Rosanne Casimir wants an apology from the Catholic Church

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available for anyone affected by residential schools. You can call 1-866-925-4419 24 hours a day to access emotional support and services.

KAMLOOPS (NEWS1130) – The chief of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc in Kamloops has issued a plea for people across Canada, and around the world, for respect as her community grieves the discovery of the unmarked graves of hundreds of children.

Providing an update into their investigation into the discovery of the remains of 215 children at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School last month, Chief Rosanne Casimir concedes there is no roadmap at this point for how things are going to develop in the future.

“This is only the beginning. Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc is working with our community members regarding their role as the caretaker for these children. We need to respect their space, to host their ceremonies and also to plan the approach ahead. There will be a time together, and Tk’emlups te Secwepemc will take the lead, and when that is best,” said Casimir as part of an online meeting with journalists from around the world on Friday.

Casimir says they expect to put out a public report into their investigation by the end of the month. She also says the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation is also looking for direct accountability from the Catholic Church.

“We do want an apology… a public apology. Not just for us, but for the world, who also shared in those suffrages,” Casimir said.

“There has never been an apology from the Roman Catholics,” she added.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called on the Church to take responsibility for residential schools, saying as a Catholic, he’s deeply disappointed by the position it has taken now and over the past couple years.

In a statement Friday, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said the “Catholic community in Canada has a decentralized structure” and “The Catholic Church as a whole in Canada was not associated with the Residential Schools, nor was the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.”

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Casimir has also put out a plea for people to be culturally sensitive as the investigation continues, noting the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Nation is still struggling to try to come to terms with last month’s discovery.

“Our people, our families and our communities are grieving. Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc is at the center of this pain,” she said.

The chief also says various meetings have been taking place as they try to coordinate next steps forward.

“We have met with our Secwépemc Nation Chiefs. We’ve met with the Chiefs of B.C. We’ve shared the information,” said Casimir.

“We’ve also had the opportunity to meet with our membership. Because the timing of how the information went out, we wanted to ensure that our members are informed of what’s going out in the media as well,” she added.

The Sisters of St. Ann, which staffed the Kamloops Indian Residential School, founded the all-girls Little Flower Academy Catholic school in Vancouver. On Friday, former students of Little Flower Academy called for it to formally apologize for its founder’s role in the residential school system.

Little Flower Academy is no longer run by the Sisters of St. Ann. It is operated by the Jane Rowan Society, which took over in 1990.

“The apology, to be authentic and sincere, would have to come from the people that ran the residential schools and I cannot speak on behalf of the Sisters or the Catholic Church,” Principal Diane Little said Friday.

With files from Cormac Mac Sweeney, Martin MacMahon, and The Canadian Press