BC Green Party MLA for Saanich North and the Islands Adam Olsen reacts after hearing the latest poll numbers come in as he waits to be interviewed at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort in Victoria, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

First Nation MLA says B.C. must do more for Indigenous reconciliation after residential school deaths

The bodies of 215 children were found on the grounds of the former Kamloops residential school

“What we’re doing is not enough,” MLA Adam Olsen told fellow members of the B.C. Legislature during an emotional speech Monday – less than a week after the discovery of a mass grave on the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

The Tk​’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation announced the discovery of 215 Indigenous children on the grounds of the former residential school Thursday (May 27), which housed as many as 500 children at a time.

Olsen, who is the representative for Saanich North and the Islands and a member of the Tsartlip First Nation, told the legislature of the trauma faced by his family and many others forced into residential schools from the 1880s to the 1990s.

“Like many of my peers, my grandparents, my great aunties and uncles are survivors of Kuper Island Residential School,” he said. “I know that they’d want me here today. Honouring the horrors that they lived through by demanding accountability for them.”

READ MORE: Petition calls for day of mourning for children found buried at former B.C. residential school

The Kuper Island Residential School, which was location on Kuper Island near Chemainus, opened in 1889 and was run by the Catholic Church until 1969, when it was taken over by the federal government. It was fully closed in 1975.

“For 30 years, my relatives have been sharing their experiences from these despicable institutions. For 30 years, those stories have been hushed,” Olsen said.

“This story is not shocking, nor is it unimaginable… the only reason to call it unimaginable would be because these institutions, these crown governments, federal and provincial governments, people that populate these chambers in the past either haven’t been listening to our stories, or they’ve cared less. Because it is a reality in our country, that some children have mattered less.”

ALSO READ: Residential school survivor calling for Canada-wide search of sites after remains of 215 children found

Olsen added that while residential schools, the last of which closed its doors in 1996, may be in the past, Indigenous Peoples are still subject treatment not seen in other groups.

“I wish I could say that indigenous children are no longer forcibly removed from their communities. However, I can’t,” he said. “I wish I could say that Indigenous People were not dramatically over-represented in fatalities at the hands of police, the criminal justice system, homelessness, suicide, addictions and drug poisonings – all statistics you don’t want to ever be over-represented in.”

Olsen called on the B.C. government to take responsibility for actions by provincial governments in the past and to make counselling and mental health care available immediately to survivors and their families, as well as programs to restore Indigenous languages, culture and governance.

“This is indeed a heavy burden. But it’s one we can make all lighter if we carry it together.”

The Indian Residential School Survivors Society is offering toll-free 24-hour telephone support for survivors and their families at 1 (866) 925-4419. Alternately, you can reach out the KUU-US Crisis Line Society 24-hour line at 1-800-588-8717.

READ MORE: B.C. premier ‘horrified’ at discovery of remains at Kamloops residential school site


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureIndigenousJohn Horganresidential schools

Just Posted

LETTER: Writer questions spread of variant and timing of vaccinations

Will there ever be a return to normal, or will people need to invest in respirators?

A family of geese wandered through the beach area of Whonnock Lake recently. (Heather Colpitts/Black Press Media)
VIDEO: Whonnock Lake visitors marvel at cute goslings

Defecating fowl can also bring with them potential issues for Maple Ridge park

Edward Wang shared this picture of an alpaca amid a field of hay in Pitt Meadows, seeking a little shade under the summer-like skies. (Special to The News)
SHARE: Grazing in the field

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon

Sandie Bannie is opposed to Pitt Meadows council move to put an RCMP detachment in a park. (Special to The News)
LETTER: Pitt Meadows resident opposed to costly RCMP detachment for small population

Letter writer urges residents to voice opposition before June 28 deadline

Dylan Ross, a Maple Ridge resident for 25 years, is like so many other local residents. He gravitates to the local trails and waterways for a little relaxation. He shared a few pictures along the local dikes near Sharpe Road during a recent kayaking adventure. (Special to The News)
SHARE: Regular relaxation retreat

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Black Press Media files)
Burnaby RCMP look for witnesses in hit-and-run that left motorcyclist dead

Investigators believe that the suspect vehicle rear-ended the motorcycle before fleeing the scene

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A police pursuit involving Abbotsford Police ended in Langley Saturday night, June 20. (Black Press Media file)
Abbotsford Police pursuit ends in Langley with guns drawn

One person arrested, witnesses say an officer may have been hurt in collision with suspect vehicle

Most Read