Action! Would Speak Louder

“Apologies and signals of virtue are not enough” was the warning summation after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s belated visit to Tk’emlups te Secwepem last Monday. The visit was appreciated, but the Kamloops First Nation needed more than political gestures to resolve long-standing grievances.

Following the visit, an open letter to the PM was signed by 13 family heads, including former Tk’emlups te Secwepem Nation Chief Manny Jules. It stated they wanted to believe what he was saying – and would believe – when he translated his words into action.

The letter (made available to The Globe and Mail) contained seven requests that could prove complex as they deal with taxation, rights and resources within accepted Indigenous land boundaries. Some would be easy to declare solved – but expensive. And one – lowering our national flag to half-mast where officially flown around the world on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – was so easy to satisfy that Trudeau guaranteed it on the spot.

He was less prepared to guarantee that his recently-elected minority government will abandon any thoughts it may have of appealing two human rights tribunal decisions, which would cost billions of dollars in compensation to indigenous children victims and their families.

During his one-day visit to Kamloops, he would only say the matter was still under consideration. But, he assured Indigenous leaders his government stood firm on the promise that First Nation children will be compensated. The deadline for an appeal is Oct. 29th.

It was back in 2019 that the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) found Ottawa had discriminated against Indigenous children on reserves by failing to provide funding for children and family services. The Globe and Mail – which appears to be the only newspaper of stature and conscience interested in the saga of Canada’s wretched Indigenous track record – reports that two years ago, the CHRT ordered the government to “pay $40,000 to each First Nations child unnecessarily taken into care on Jan. 1st, 2006, or later…”

Readers who thought all this Indigenous residential schools’ tragic stuff took place back in the early days of the 1900s should check the chronology of abuse and genocide. If you are older than 20, it was still happening on your watch. It was happening on my watch for decades. As the old English saying goes: “There’s none so blind as those who will not see.”

There’s a lot of shame to share, but back briefly to the current timetable. In 2020, the CHRT issued further amendments to the rules to clarify that should there ever be disagreement about who should receive compensation – the child must have priority.

Ottawa protested and requested a judicial review. It was held, and on Sept. 29th and Federal Court Justice Paul Pavel upheld both Tribunal decisions.

In Kamloops, the prime minister waxed mildly eloquent: “I’m sorry I wasn’t here on September 30th. It was a mistake. Instead of talking about truth and reconciliation, people talked about me, and that’s on me. I take responsibility for that.”

Yes, well, he would have a lot on his mind on the flight over and beyond Kamloops to the relaxing sands of Long Beach.

A week later about all he had to say about truth and reconciliation was that the government had released a total of three million reports and studies, and that was all the government had. He avoided or declined comment on a request by the Canadian Bar Association – representing 36,000 jurists, including lawyers, notaries, and law instructors – asking Ottawa to accept Justice Pavel’s ruling and not continue legal action.

A few days ago, the Globe and Mail reported attempts to reach Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller. It received a reply “from his office” that Canada is reviewing the situation and further information will be forthcoming.

Sharing the reporting burden with the Globe and Mail is CBC Television. Look for Jason Warick at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/catholic-church—residential-school-court-documents-1.6198275. CBC coverage focuses on broken Roman Catholic promises of financial aid for residential school victims while finding multi-millions to build new Cathedrals.

3 comments

  1. On a practical basis appealing the Federal Court decision would be a waste of money. Canada’s high courts usually decide in favour of our Indigenous citizens, as well they should.

    The government should borrow the money, pay the children and move on.

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