Geraldine Shingoose knew exactly what she wanted to tell Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Just the day before, Shingoose had been contacted, as a residential school survivor, to potentially receive a call from Trudeau. She provided her contact information and was added to the list.
Shingoose spent the morning of Sept. 30, speaking to students about residential schools and reconciliation and had informed them that she may need to step out of the classroom at some point if the prime minister called.
Shingoose, who had confirmed she was on the official call list, kept checking her phone all day but the call never came.
“I would’ve told him, that I’m a 9-year residential school survivor and I attended Muscowequan Residential School and I experienced all forms of abuses at that residential school,” says Shingoose on the latest episode of Face to Face.
“There were children found on the grounds at Muscowequan Residential School in June of 2018. And I wanted to request from him that he discontinue the charity status of the Catholic church,” says Shingoose who felt “discarded as a residential school survivor” when the prime minister didn’t call.
Shingoose was upset when she found out the next day that Trudeau spent the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on a holiday with his family.
“It surely shows his privilege you could but it also shows our history with Canada,” says Shingoose.
“Canada, they sent us to boarding school and they hid that secret and it’s almost like he’s continuing to hide that secret by going on a vacation on this most important day for all us survivors. It was really disheartening, very disrespectful,” adds Shingoose.
The prime minister has apologized but it’s not one that Shingoose accepts.
“The world was watching and he wasn’t there. He was absent and his apology means nothing to me. He showed his true colours that day,” says Shingoose.
Shingoose, known to many as “Gramma Shingoose”, spent the rest of her first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation leading a march of thousands in Winnipeg.
Going forward, Shingoose hopes Canadians use the day to continue to learn and research resources on the residential school experience.
“Communities are still finding children and it’s an everyday matter for survivors,” says Shingoose.
Shingoose also strongly believes the Catholic church needs to be held accountable and lose charity status in Canada.
Shortly after the official announcement from Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc in May 2021 that 215 unmarked graves were confirmed at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School site, Shingoose camped outside of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Winnipeg and waited hours to speak with the archbishop.
Shingoose along with members of her family and other survivors also brought embers from a sacred fire and a sacred bundle of items to the leadership in Tḱemlúps te Secwépemc.
“We need to find out who those children were. We need to give them names. We need to acknowledge the communities where they came from. We need to acknowledge their families but most of all we need to find out who is responsible for these children that were buried,” says Shingoose.
“There needs to be accountability and responsibility and moving forward I hope there is criminal charges against those individuals for hiding and burying those children for all of those years.”
Photo credit: Michael Yellowwing