Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)

Penticton Indian Band Chief and Council denounce Truth and Reconciliation Day

No substantive actions to date to show a sincere commitment for reconciliation, says Chief Gabriel

With no substantive actions to date “to show a sincere commitment for reconciliation,” Penticton Indian Band (PIB) Chief and council will not be recognizing National Truth and Reconciliation Day.

In a statement provided to the media, Chief Greg Gabriel said it is far too premature to celebrate this day.

“After the discovery of the first 215 children’s graves at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School site, the Penticton Indian Band Chief and council are unanimous in their decision that they will not recognize the Sept. 30th Truth and Reconciliation Day,” the statement reads.

Council agreed with and stood behind Chief Gabriel’s statement that there has been no real substantive actions to date to show a genuine or sincere commitment for reconciliation.

“For years, we have heard the same statements and promises being made and yet everything remains status quo. We as a people have struggled and continue to suffer from the effects of colonialism forced onto us by the Catholic Church and the Government of Canada. We hope that all citizens look at ways to educate themselves on the true history of what we as a people continue to struggle with.”

However, the PIB council and chief said they don’t want to discourage any of “our relatives, friends or communities from having events that recognize and honour those lives lost as a result of the residential school atrocity and those who wish to honour all survivors that have thrived and remain with us.”

“We encourage all to keep the message strong and loud, that ‘We are Still Here’ and ‘We Will Never Forget.’ Our message and reminder has to always remain strong. We encourage everyone to wear your orange shirts on Sept. 30.”

The PIB joins the Lower Similkameen Indian Band Chief Keith Crow in questioning what this day is supposed to represent.

“How do you celebrate a Truth and Reconciliation Day? How do you celebrate the death of all these children that died in residential schools, how do you celebrate that?” said Crow.

READ MORE: ‘Truth and Reconciliation is an action, not a day off’

At the burned down Sacred Hearts Catholic Church site on PIB land in June, Chief Gabriel said many people in his community are hurting and angry at the horrific discovery of 215 graves of those “innocent, poor children.”

“There’s anger across Canada. Myself, I’m very angry. I will do whatever I can in our leadership to make sure people are held accountable for those atrocities. It has to be a criminal investigation because that evil act is criminal. There needs to be a full criminal investigation, and people need to be held criminally responsible,” Gabriel said at the time.

READ MORE: Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

The Penticton Indian Band joined the Syilx Okanagan Nation’s For the Children Caravan to the Kamloops Residential School on June 26.

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