A Williams Lake city councillor is calling on his colleagues to help advance truth and reconciliation with local First Nations in light of the recent news of a burial site containing the remains of 215 children at the former Kamloops Residential School.
“I’m afraid that mourning or thoughts and prayers are now no longer enough,” Coun. Jason Ryll said during the committee of the whole meeting Tuesday, June 1.
“I believe collectively that Canadians’ hearts are heavy at this latest revelation and I know internationally as well from ex-pats [Canadians] desire to learn more about this.”
Ryll said the world wants to know what governments are doing to address the issue and that city council has a responsibility at a local level.
He asked that Mayor Walt Cobb write a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau supporting the call from the city of Vancouver to provide all necessary funding and support for all residential school sites in Canada to be expertly examined under the guidance of local First Nations and knowledge keepers to begin to identify the 1,000s of children that are unaccounted for and attempt to bring them home for their families and their traditional territories.
Ryll said the truth and reconciliation commission’s call to action, as well as the province’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People Act and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People provide all senior levels of government with adequate tools for them to take a worldwide leadership role to address the atrocities of the past and provide a framework to move forward in a good way so that these kinds of events don’t ever happen in the future.
“The tools are there, it’s now past time to encourage our national leaders to use them,” Ryll said.
He asked staff to provide a report to council on the status of any actions or plans the city of Williams Lake is undertaking or can be advancing with respect to truth and reconciliation with local First Nations.
“I know we have been collectively working on this, I’m just asking for an update.”
Ryll also asked staff to co-ordinate a council-to-council meeting with local area First Nations to discuss how everyone moves forward together and what role the city can play in directing senior levels of government toward reconciliation, such as those set out in the truth and reconciliation commission.
He ended his recommendations by saying thank you in Secwepemc and Tsilhqotin – Kukwstsetemc and Sechanalyagh.
Council voted unanimously in favour of all Ryll’s recommendations, although final approval votes are done at regular meetings.
At the opening of the meeting Cobb acknowledged the meeting was being held on traditional Secwepemc territory as he normally does, followed by an additional message.
“The city of Williams Lake and council acknowledges the tragic news of the tragic discovery of the remains of the 215 individuals who attended the former Kamloops residential school. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and the communities affected by this painful discovery,” Cobb said. “It’s unbelievable.”