Toronto, Canada, Oct 18 (EFE).- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tried to repair ties with Indigenous people Monday by visiting a former residential school in British Columbia Monday, following the discovery in May of more than 200 unmarked graves of Aboriginal children.
During his visit to the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc and the town of Kamloops, Trudeau apologized several times for his decision to go on vacation with his family on Sep.30, the first Truth and Reconciliation Day in Canada.
The prime minister had ignored previous invitation for the day observed for the first time to remember the victims of the residential school system in Canada.
“I wish I had been here a few weeks ago and I am deeply sorry. But I am here to take the hand extended by the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc and many other indigenous Canadians across the country,” Trudeau said in the presence of Indigenous leaders.
Seated next to him was the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc chief Rosanne Casimir.
The tribal chief said she accepted the apologies but quickly added that actions were necessary and not just words.
The Assembly of First Nations (AFN), a coalition of Indigenous groups, sought justice for the victims of the brutal system.
“They deserve, above all, the dignity of being named and that they are returned, ceremonially or physically, to their homes,” the tribal leader told Trudeau.
Trudeau twice ignored the invitation of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc to participate in the Sep.30 ceremonies to remember the victims of the school residence system run by the government and religious authorities in the 19th and 20th centuries to assimilate indigenous children.
In May this year, the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc discovered the remains of 215 children buried in a mass grave at one of these schools that forcibly separated indigenous children from their families.
The school, managed by the Catholic Church, opened in 1890. Each year, it housed up to 500 children of the indigenous communities.
The painful discovery in Kamloops of western Canada, where colonial authorities forcibly interned the Aborigines for decades, reopened the wounds of the harrowing racist past and cultural genocide committed to annihilating Indigenous people.
Other indigenous groups reported similar horrific discoveries at former school residences.
So far, a total of 1,275 graves linked to the boarding schools have been found in the country.
In 2015, a truth and reconciliation report concluded that the authorities had used the boarding school system as a tool to commit “cultural genocide” against the indigenous people of the country.
The system of school residences operated in the country until 1997 when the last boarding school closed.
The Canadian authorities ran thousands of residential schools but have never confirmed the exact number of such facilities.
Rough estimates say there were 3,000 to 6,000 such schools across the country for tens of thousands of Indigenous children.
During its more than 100 years of existence, an estimated 150,000 indigenous children interned in these schools, where they suffered systematic physical, psychological and sexual abuse. EFE