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

A concept rendering of the proposed seven-unit, two-storey development at 1129 Riverside Ave. in Sicamous. (District of Sicamous graphic)
Proposed luxury development in Sicamous sparks parking concerns

Seven-unit commercial-residential building planned for Riverside Avenue

The Shaw Centre and the SASCU Recreation Centre are the two largest producers of greenhouse gas emissions on City of Salmon Arm properties. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
City of Salmon staff surprised COVID not cause of drop in greenhouse gas emissions

2020 sees emissions on city-owned properties decrease well below 2019 totals

Shuswap Litas and Son of Stomp head out from uptown Askew’s parking lot on Thursday, June 10, some with teddy bears and stuffies, to ride to Pierre’s Point by Adams Lake community hall to show their support for band members in the wake of the confirmation of 215 children buried at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Shuswap bike clubs ride to support Indigenous communities

Motorcyclists go to Pierre’s Point in solidarity with bands in wake of residential school findings

Interior Health is offering mobile vaccination clinics for the first dose only of COVID-19 vaccine in the Shuswap from June 15 to June 19h. (Interior Health image)
First-dose vaccinations for COVID-19 offered via mobile clinics in Shuswap

Clinic in Salmon Arm scheduled for June 15, other clinics in Sorrento, Malakwa, Chase

The price per litre of regular gasoline was at 145.9 cents at several gas stations in downtown Salmon Arm on June 11, 2021. (Zachary Roman - Salmon Arm Observer)
Gas prices pumped up in Salmon Arm and Sicamous

Price spikes from 131.9 to as high as 145.9 cents per litre

Dr. Albert de Villiers, chief medical health officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a summary of this week’s biggest stories from the Okanagan-Shuswap

Airport ground crew offload a plane carrying just under 300,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine which is developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
1st batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines won’t be released in Canada over quality concerns

The vaccines were quarantined in April before they were distributed to provinces

The rainbow flag flies beside the Canadian flag outside the University of the Fraser Valley’s Chilliwack campus on June 26, 2020. Monday, June 14, 2021 is Flag Day, and also June is Pride Month. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 13 to 19

Flag Day, Garbage Man Day, International Panic Day all coming up this week

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Naramata community in shock as condolences pour in for homicide victim Kathy Richardson

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

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

Princeton GSAR responds 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In 2020 the crew was called out 34 times, and members spent 721 hours on calls, and 683 hours training. Photo Princeton GSAR Facebook
Teen missing in Manning Park found after 24 hours

Young man spends night on mountain and survives with just a few scrapes

The RCMP are asking for assistance regarding the death of Kathleen Richardson of Naramata, pictured here. Her death is believed to be related to two homicides in Naramata in May. (RCMP)
Police identify South Okanagan homicide victim as 57-year-old Naramata woman

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday

Two e-scooters parked on the sidewalk along Water Street in downtown Kelowna on Monday, May 3. Scooters parked on walkways are causing accessibility issues for some people with disabilities. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)
Kelowna General Hospital clinicians observe increase in e-scooter injuries

A report is set to go to city council next week on how the e-scooter pilot has gone thus far

Forty sled dogs were seized by the BC SPCA from a Salmo kennel in February. A recent ruling has decided the dogs won’t be returned. Photo: Gounsil/Flickr
BC Farm Industry Review Board rules against Salmo kennel after 40 sled dogs seized

Spirit of the North Kennels was also ordered to pay BC SPCA $64,000

Most Read