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

The ‘official’ opening of 2nd Edition Coworking in downtown Fernie, a project five years in the making by the Fernie Chamber of Commerce. Left to right: Executive Director of the Fernie Chamber Brad Parsell, incoming President of the Fernie Chamber Norm Fraser, outgoing President of the Fernie Chamber Anita Palmer, and Mayor of Fernie Ange Qualizza. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Fernie Chamber cuts the ribbon on 2nd Edition

The new coworking space in Fernie is now ‘officially’ open, but has been operating since early 2021

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

Sparwood Mayor David Wilks with the new AED SaveStation installed at the Sparwood Leisure Centre. (Contributed by District of Sparwood)
Sparwood installs public AED

The SaveStation was installed thanks to a grant from CP Rail

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Thursday, June 10, mentioned Grand Forks among two other COVID “hot spots” in B.C. Photo: Screenshot - YouTube COVID-19 BC Update, June 10, 2021
PHO Henry says West Kootenay city is a COVID ‘hot spot’ in B.C.

There are 11 cases of COVID-19 in the Grand Forks local health area, according the BC CDC

(File)
“Gift card scam,” and “grandparent scam” are on the rise, Cranbrook RCMP say

Folks are falling for these scams: “No Government agency or reputable company will ever ask anyone to pay with gift cards in lieu of their fines”

t
How to tell if a call from ‘CRA’ is legitimate or a scam

Expert says it’s important to verify you really are dealing with the CRA before you give out any info

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

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

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets campers while visiting McDougall, Ont. on Thursday, July 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
71% of B.C. men say they’d prefer to go camping with Trudeau: survey

Most British Columbians with plans to go camping outdoors say they’d prefer to go with Trudeau or Shania Twain

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

Chilliwack cocaine trafficker Clayton Eheler seen with a tiger somewhere in Asia in 2014. Eheler was sentenced to nine years jail in 2018, but was released on bail in October 2020 pending his appeal of conviction.(Facebook)
Director of civil forfeiture seeks $140,000 from Fraser Valley drug dealer’s father-in-law

Clayton Eheler’s father-in-law Ray Morrissey caught with money in Fort St. John by B.C.’s gang unit

A Comox Valley shellfish operator pleaded guilty and was fined $10,000 in provincial court in Courtenay earlier this year. Record file photo
B.C. clam harvester fined $10,000 for Fisheries Act violations

Charges against three others were stayed in Courtenay Provincial Court

Frank Phillips receives a visit from his wife Rena at Nanaimo Seniors Village on their 61st wedding anniversary, March 31, 2020. Social visits have been allowed since COVID-19 vaccination has been offered in all care homes. (Nanaimo News Bulletin)
B.C. prepares mandatory vaccination for senior care homes

180 more cases of COVID-19 in B.C. Friday, one more death

Lorraine Gibson, 90, received a COVID-19 immunization at the South Surrey Park and Ride vaccination clinic. (File photo: Aaron Hinks)
Surrey has had 25% of B.C.’s total COVID-19 cases

Surrey recorded 4,012 cases in May

Most Read