The Saskatchewan New Democrats are pushing for Truth and Reconciliation for survivors of the former Île-à-la-Crosse and Timber Bay residential schools in northern Saskatchewan.
On Wednesday, NDP Leader Ryan Meili sent a letter to Premier Scott Moe calling on the provincial government to apologize for and take ownership of its role in “the damage caused to First Nations and Métis people at these institutions.”
The official opposition notes that the Île-à-la-Crosse and Timber Bay residential schools were not included in the federal Indian Residential School Settlement process as part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Meili said on Wednesday that these facilities were funded by both the federal and Saskatchewan governments.
“It is one thing to talk about how badly things were done in residential schools and we all agree on the horrible atrocities that were done there, but it’s another thing to do more than point fingers elsewhere and take responsibility yourself,” suggested Meili.
The NDP has called on the government to take specific steps including:
• An official apology in the legislature on behalf of the Government of Saskatchewan for the trauma caused at the Île-à-la-Crosse and Timber Bay residential schools.
• With regards to the Timber Bay residential school, put pressure on the Government of Canada to ensure that it is included in the Indian Residential School Settlement process in order to allow for compensation for survivors and their families.
• Work with survivors’ groups from both residential schools to determine appropriate compensation to the survivors and their families by the Government of Saskatchewan.
Betty Nippi-Albright, who serves as NDP critic for Truth and Reconciliation and First Nations and Métis relations, is a residential school survivor herself. The Saskatoon MLA said it’s long past due for the federal and provincial governments to take full responsibility for their part in running residential schools.
“They had provincial dollars to run those schools and they need to acknowledge that,” she stated. “They need to apologize and compensate those individuals.”
NDP MLA for Athabasca Buckley Belanger said the provincial government also needs to release information about these institutions so a thorough investigation can be conducted.
“The province is withholding a lot of key information. What kind of key cooperation is that?” he exclaimed. “In Île-à-la-Crosse alone, there were hundreds of kids. We suspect there are some burial plots on that residential property or school property when children were housed there, but we have not begun that process.”
“We need Moe to stop pointing at Ottawa. He needs to take responsibility as well.”