Response to Ministerial Statement: Removal of residential school at Lower Post

Jun 17, 2021 | 42-1, Blog, Governance, Legislature, Statement, Video | 0 comments

I provided the BC Green Caucus response to the Ministerial Statement delivered by the Minister of State for Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Hon. Nathan Cullen, regarding the removal of the residential school at Lower Post in Kaska Dena territory.

[Transcript]

To my colleague from Richmond-Queensborough, HÍSW̱ḴE SIÁM for your powerful words this morning. Thank you to my colleagues, the Minister of State for Lands, and the Opposition House Leader for your words.

Over the next few days, my prayers will be with our relatives of the Kaska Dena, as they deconstruct the residential school that still stands in their community. This is an important part of the healing process for our northern relatives.

As British Columbians embrace a greater awareness and understanding of the despicable history of our colonial past, the stories of this provincial government, the stories of our federal government that created the laws and policy that provide the structure for the forced assimilation of Indigenous People, those laws and policies were created in the same way that we create the laws and policies in this chamber today.

We know that while the physical reminders of the history of residential schools can be removed by tearing down walls, the psychological and spiritual impacts are carried for a lifetime, and the trauma is passed from one generation to the next.

This provincial government must never forget the role that elected members, represented by the 87 of us that sit in these seats today, played in advancing these horrific policies. We have inherited those stories, and if we are to truly reconcile that history, we must change more than the language that we use. We must also change our actions. The residential schools were established to remove the Indian and the child, to disrupt our beautiful cultures, and to dispossess us from our lands. In many ways, this government is continuing that dispossession.

The policies that removed Indigenous governance structures, and the scattering of our ancestral remains and items of cultural significance, were pivotal for Crown governments to gain control over those lands and resources. However, we can be different.

Investments in Indigenous language revitalization is an important start, not just for through three years, but in perpetuity. I’ve repeatedly implored this government to do more than just a cursory program of $30,000 each year for communities wishing to bring their ancestral remains and items of cultural significance home from museums around the world. What has been done? Nothing.

Finally, the communities across the province are working to rebuild their houses of governance and culture. Their houses of healing. Healing from the scars that have been caused by this provincial government and our colleagues in the federal government.

It’s totally unacceptable that when they seek the support of the provincial government, there’s nothing there for them. Indigenous Nations are turning to GoFundMe to pay for new long houses, for healing centres and schools. This is totally unacceptable. This government must act with urgency in making all resources needed easily accessible for the revitalization of Indigenous languages, the repatriation of ancestral remains and items of cultural significance, healing centres, and the homes of governance and decision-making.

Reconciliation means this government must actively support the return of the cultures, the lands, and the ways of living that were stripped away from Indigenous People in schools like the one that is to be deconstructed in Lower Post.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I raise my hands to the leaders of our Kaska Dena relatives for the important work that is about to take place. Our hearts, our thoughts and our feelings will be with you as you do this important work in your community. HÍSW̱ḴE SIÁM.

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