The Saskatchewan NDP says everything needs to be done as a province and country to support residential school survivors and Indigenous communities that continue to experience generational trauma from the legacy of the residential school system.
The statement was released on Thursday morning by the official opposition following the discovery of 751 unmarked graves at Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan.
Betty Nippi-Albright, the NDP’s critic for First Nations and Métis Relations and Truth and Reconciliation, is a residential school survivor. She attended Gordon’s Indian Residential School – the last federally-funded residential school in Canada – during the 1970s.
During Thursday’s NDP event at the Saskatchewan Legislative Building in Regina, Nippi-Albright admitted she hopes this a watershed moment for all Canadians, but particularly in Saskatchewan.
“We need to demand that our province responds in a meaningful way that is actually going to help us move and build respectful relationships,” said Nippi-Albright. “We need to start addressing the systemic racism that is so entrenched in this province.”
To start, the NDP wants to see immediate mental health supports put in place for communities both on and off reserve. However Nippi-Albright also suggested the government needs to work directly with Indigenous leaders at all governmental tables.
“Work in a way that is respectful for First Nations and Métis peoples, and also bring them at the beginning of these discussions, not as an afterthought,” Nippi-Albright stated.
NDP Leader Ryan Meili added that the Roman Catholic Church needs to release records regarding residential schools. He said he is echoing the call from First Nations in Saskatchewan, including Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme who has requested the Pope to make an apology.
“Catholic myself, we are going to be reaching out and writing a letter to Pope Francis and to all the bishops in Saskatchewan, calling to make sure all records are released,” “We want all that information to be available so the full story can be understood. A full apology from the Catholic Church is absolutely necessary.”
Meili added there are Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action that directly apply to Saskatchewan with most of them not being acted on yet.
He said there needs to be a clear timeline provided by the provincial government of when those will be completed.