A residential school survivor says she is sick of talk, and is demanding action from the federal government on reconciliation between Canada and residential school survivors.
“Canada, no more talk! No more promises. No more crocodile tears. It’s time to take action,” said Evelyn Korkmaz, speaking at an NDP press conference Thursday.
Korkmaz said that survivors like herself have known that children’s remains were buried across Canada even before 215 bodies were found last week at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
“Now do you believe us? Do you believe us survivors, Canada?”
The federal government should fund the investigation of the 139 residential school sites across Canada, Korkmaz said, calling them “crime scenes.” She’s also urging Ottawa to identify the missing children and notify their families, complete the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, honour the residential school settlement agreement and stop fighting settlement cases in court.
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Korkmaz was speaking at a press conference on a motion put forward by NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh that calls on Ottawa to drop a pair of Federal Court appeals he says represent a “belligerent” approach to justice for Indigenous children.
Singh says symbolic gestures are not sufficient and that the moment demands action, accusing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of hypocrisy in sympathizing with Indigenous communities while fighting them in the courts.
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The Liberal government is appealing a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling ordering Ottawa to pay $40,000 each to some 50,000 First Nations children separated from their families by a chronically underfunded child welfare system.
It is also fighting a tribunal decision that widened the applicability of Jordan’s Principle, a rule stating that when governments disagree about who’s responsible for providing services to First Nations children, they must help a child in need first and argue over the bills later.
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Trudeau said earlier this week that “an awful lot” of work remains before reconciliation can be achieved, stating that residential school survivors need more support amid profound intergenerational trauma.
Singh is also asking the government for faster implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action, trauma resources for survivors and a progress report to be tabled in 10 days.
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Korkmaz would also like to see the Catholic Church account for its role in residential schools.
“The Catholic Church also needs to acknowledge and take ownership to repent and pay for their sins,” she said.
Last week, the Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) called on Pope Francis to address the atrocities that happened at residential schools, days after the remains of 215 children were found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
The Catholic Church was responsible for operating up to 60 per cent of residential schools in Canada and is the only church involved in residential schools that hasn’t made a formal apology.
Korkmaz said that it’s past time for Canada to take concrete steps toward reconciliation.
“The time has come to act. No more talk. We’re tired of talk. We need action and we need action now. Today.”
Anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience can access a 24-hour, toll-free and confidential National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.
–With files from Global News’ Katie Dangerfield and The Canadian Press
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