Yesterday, I stood and responded to the statement provided by the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation in acknowledgement of the pain and tribulations that are being felt from our relatives in Shíshálh, Chief Yalxwemult Lenora Joe, and the leadership in the community, acting on the information provided from the Elders that survived the horrific experiences that happened in residential schools, specifically the St. Augustine Residential School operated by the Catholic church in their community.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, as we have now stood numerous times. Just to acknowledge each time these findings are publicly stated that it’s not just the communities that are noting their findings that feel the effect of these announcements, but it indeed reopens the wounds of residential and day school survivors that live today, their family members and those that may have suffered as a result of being descendants of those people who, unfortunately, never made it home from school.
As the minister said, we must do more. We must do better. We must do our part. I think it’s important to acknowledge, in that, that residential and day schools which we have stood and acknowledged several times now in this House in this chamber were only one part of a much broader policy of assimilation and cultural genocide that was experienced by Indigenous people here in British Columbia and right across our province.
While we mark these occasions by lowering flags and by wearing orange shirts, as a direct descendant of residential and day schools survivors, I feel it’s my obligation to also remind this institution that the steps that we need to take must be more than that. It’s important to acknowledge that that broad set of policies that residential and day schools were a part of were actually about separating mothers and children and undermining Indigenous mothers and fathers.
Even as this institution changes and evolves in many wonderful ways, in fact, it’s important that we’re honest and we acknowledge the many awful ways that it’s not evolving and changing quickly enough. I think of the ongoing suffering that the Ministry of Children and Family Development continues to cause our families. I think about the drug poisoning crisis and the report that we just had last week where 16.4 percent of the deaths of people that passed away as an unfortunate result of the drug poisoning crisis where Indigenous relatives and Indigenous, people, when only 3.3 percent of the population are Indigenous people. That’s 5.9 times the rate of the general population.
I think it’s also important to acknowledge the impact that has had on our women, our matriarchs, our grandmothers, mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins; 36.5 percent of the Indigenous people who passed away are women. That’s 11.2 times the rate of women in the general population that have passed away due to drug poisoning. There is a direct connection, and we must make that direct connection to the policies of this place as part of that broad policy.
When we stand in here and acknowledge the impact of residential schools, it is important that we are fully embracing and aware of the deep pain and suffering that it has not only caused the families of those who didn’t come home from school but those who did come home from school. There are people in our communities that continue to carry those stories and that pain and suffering to this very day.