Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach stood up in a winning parliamentary call for the federal government to stop fighting Indigenous children in court and to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action, on June 7.
The motion also called on the federal government to take concrete actions towards reconciliation with Indigenous people.
While Parliament passed the NDP motion, many Liberal cabinet members and the Prime Minister remained silent and chose not to vote, a media statement issued by the MP’s office stated.
“It’s unacceptable that while people across the country are expressing their grief at the discovery of 215 unmarked burial sites at the Kamloops Residential School, the Liberals are in court fighting against First Nations children and residential school survivors,” Bachrach said. “By not even bothering to show up for today’s vote, the Prime Minister’s actions speak louder than any words.”
Bachrach said that there are many examples of how Canada’s “shameful treatment of Indigenous people continues today.”
“As one person said, it’s not one chapter in our history, it’s the entire plot of the book,” he said in his speech to parliament.
While addressing parliament, the MP said he knows a lot of non-indigenous people are feeling sad at the tragic discovery near Kamloops, but what he is hearing from a lot of indigenous people is that indulging in the sadness does not make the situation they face any better.
“What they want us to do, especially those of us in positions of power and influence is to fight like hell in this moment, when people care about something they should have cared about a long time ago. To fight like hell for real action. That’s where this motion comes from … We must act now,” Bachrach said.
In addition to demanding the government to drop its court battles, the NDP motion called on the government to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action regarding investigations of missing indigenous children at residential schools and to provide adequate resources to help residential school survivors heal.
“The Indigenous people I have spoken to over the past week overwhelmingly want to know where their loved ones are,” he said.
“I was infuriated to learn that in 2009 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission asked the Harper government for $1.5 million to search residential school properties … shamefully those funds were denied. What would Indigenous communities know today had that money been granted 12 years ago.”
The NDP is also calling for the full implementation of the Calls to Justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
“Truth comes before reconciliation for a reason,” Bachrach said.
As Bachrach spoke during the debate he raised some of the heartbreaking stories from residential school survivors in the Northwest, and expressed the significance genuine steps towards reconciliation would mean for many in the region. Bachrach recently attended ceremonies at Lejac and Witset following the discovery in Kamloops.
During his address in parliament, he cited the example of Lower Post residents who since the 1970s have been forced to use the former residential school as their band office. He said he witnessed elders who suffered abuse having to walk through the doors time and time again to access basic services. Bachrach said he was shown in the basement the dark place under the stairs where atrocities occurred.
“A new building will finally be built in a few short weeks … it’s a long-overdue step in the healing process, however, we have to ask ourselves why did it take us so long.”
After the vote was passed Bachrach said there is still much work ahead.
“The sad fact is, the government’s progress on these issues has been far too slow. Now that this motion has passed, we will keep pushing them to take concerted action on reconciliation,” the MP said.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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