Tk’emlúps to sign reconciliation covenant with Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver

Archbishop to visit Kamloops Sunday for private ceremony

unmarked graves

Some of the artwork memorializing potential unmarked graves discovered in Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc Nation. Photo: APTN file

The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc band and Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver have reached an agreement over access to Indian residential school records and archives.

Both parties will sign the “sacred covenant” during a private ceremony on Easter Sunday at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, where the band said it discovered the unmarked graves of 215 schoolchildren in May 2021.

“To sign a sacred covenant with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver, is to enact important steps of contrition,” Kúkpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference Thursday. “To sign it on Easter Sunday is a symbolic and significant step forward.”

Archbishop J. Michael Miller said the Catholic Church wants to “write a new chapter” with Tk’emlúps as a commitment to truth and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

“Unquestionably, the church was wrong in implementing a government colonial policy, which resulted in devastation for many children, families and communities,” Miller told reporters during the news conference.

“It’s certainly our desire that all records be shared; there is nothing to be gained by not sharing records.”

Archdiocese of Vancouver

Miller noted the Archdiocese of Vancouver has made available all of the records it has. He didn’t know about access to the archives at the Vatican, but said bishops and other Catholic organizations are willing to share their records.

The covenant includes actions to memorialize children who attended residential schools, and healing services for family members of loved ones who attended the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

Both parties credited former Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Chief Manny Jules and former Assembly of First Nations national chief Phil Fontaine with crafting the covenant.

Any costs associated with the covenant are coming out of the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund. The Archdiocese of Vancouver committed $2.5 million over five years to the fund.

Meanwhile, Casimir said her band had not conducted any excavations at the site of the potential graves.

“Excavation would be very intrusive,” she said. “We are still in the archival research part of the process.”

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