Assembly of First Nations chief says crimes have been committed

The newly elected Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), RoseAnne Archibald, considers the issue of anonymous graves found in residential schools in Canada as one of her top priorities.

“It’s a long process to get justice and reparations and get our children back,” Archibald told KTW. “It will definitely be one of the things that runs through my leadership journey.”

Archibald spoke on Thursday, July 15 at the Coast Kamloops Hotel and Conference Center as Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc released more information on the ground penetrating radar (GPR) investigation he conducted in May, uncovering signs of 200 probable landfills on the ground. from the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

Following the May 27 revelation, three other bands conducted GPR investigations revealing the presence of probable unmarked graves on the grounds of former Indian residential schools – 751 at Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan, 182 at Cranbrook’s Indian Residential School. St. Eugene’s Mission and over 160 at Kuper Island Industrial School on Vancouver Island.

Archibald said she expects there to be more reports of probable unmarked graves, noting that GPR technology is revealing an “indisputable truth” that crimes have been committed – crimes that must be done. under investigation and criminals held to account.

“When you take a body and bury it without a grave, it’s a crime. It’s the first crime,” Archibald told KTW.

She noted that there are different levels of a criminal nature.

“How did these children die? This is the second level of crime. Why did the church hide this? This is another level of crime. Why has the government done nothing? It’s another level of crime, ”she said.

During the press conference, Archibald said she was working “urgently” on the burial site issue and called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for more resources and funding to help with the search.

“We are saddened by these covers. I know this and have seen with my own eyes, speaking to people across this country, that they are demanding actions, not promises, not moments of silence, ”she said.

“Our young people are expressing their rage and pain by knocking down statues and torching churches, but we must do more than demolish the symbols of destructive colonization. I ask our allies to stand side by side with us, to rebuild, recover, heal and move forward together. “

In the weeks following the revelation of the Tk’emlups. several churches in other provinces and parts of British Columbia were set on fire and statues of historical figures, including Queen Victoria in the provincial capital, were disfigured with red paint. The Church of St. Joseph belonging to Tk’emlúps was vandalized with spray paint.

Asked what the AFN can do to help Tk’emlúps, who is moving forward with archaeological and identification work, Archibald said she was here to use the position of national chief to “amplify their voices. “.

Beyond that, Archibald should be asked by the group to take certain action on her behalf and she would expect any word on it from Tk’emlups Kúkpi7 (leader) Rosanne Casimir.

When it comes to finding probable residential school graves, Archibald said there must be independent investigations, noting that the RCMP have a role to play in taking children from their families to attend. She said there must also be an international review, noting that the AFN recently passed a resolution for the International Criminal Court to be involved in the process.

“There are a number of moving parts that we still have to figure out. An investigation must take place, ”Archibald said.

She said the process must be community-driven, noting that the AFN is looking to the federal government to provide funding surveys.

“These are conversations I’m going to have at some point with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and members of his cabinet,” Archibald said.

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