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B.C. Indigenous leaders call on Canada to take ownership of colonial past

Shoes line the edge of the Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill in memory of the 215 children whose remains were found at the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School at Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops, B.C., on May 30, 2021, THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

UBCIC says Canada needs to speak out, rid itself of processes, principles, frameworks of colonial past

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, UBCIC president, says denial is the biggest issue

Call for accountability comes after Indigenous children's remains were found in Kamloops

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As we mark National Indigenous Peoples Day, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs is calling on the federal government to take responsibility for “its legacy of colonialism, racism, and denial.”

The UBCIC says Canada needs to speak out and rid itself of the processes, principles, and frameworks that continue to cast a shadow over the country.

In light of the discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, the organization says it’s a matter of accountability.

“Since the news broke out, there has been a rising number of Indian Residential School burial sites confirmed across the country,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, UBCIC president.

“We take time today to acknowledge and mourn with all Nations and peoples impacted by the reality of Canada’s brutal, genocidal actions. The long shadow cast by Canada’s historical attempts to extinguish Indigenous cultures and societies persists into the present, and we call on Canada to resolve the ongoing pain, trauma, and hurt that continues to be inflicted by practices of colonialism.”

Pointing to thigs like police harassment and brutality, systemic discrimination, and attempts by government and companies to take control of their traditional lands, Phillip says denial is the biggest issue.

Although he is not directly connecting the dots, the comment could be seen as an indictment of a statement from the head of the Vancouver Police Department, Chief Constable Adam Palmer, who is on the record saying systemic racism isn’t evident in Canadian policing.

Others say despite commitments to advance reconciliation efforts with Indigenous peoples, the Canadian government “consistently and systematically excluded Indigenous peoples from critical decision-making processes, and has not afforded them the recognition they deserve as free, self-determining peoples with inherent Title and Rights.”

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The UBCIC is calling for an immediate end to the “delegitimization and violation of Indigenous women’s rights, as a tool used since colonization to disenfranchise and dispossess Indigenous peoples of their lands and resources.”

“Indigenous women are on the frontlines working to protect the environment within their territories from climate change impacts and destructive resource extraction and emissions intensive projects,” said Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, secretary treasurer of the UBCIC. “Canada must work to ensure these projects, particularly the TMX, does not endanger their Title, Rights, safety, and welfare of Indigenous communities.”

The Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation confirmed in May the discovery of what are believed to be the remains of 215 children in Kamloops.

The confirmation sparked a massive reckoning across Canada, with calls to search other former residential school sites for remains.

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