One year after Tk'emlups discovery, still a long ways to go, survivors say 

'Still a long journey'

Sydney Chisholm

John Stevens, a residential school survivor, traveled 17 hours to Kamloops in solidarity for the 215 and residential school survivors.

Stevens made the trip from Kincolith, a Nisga'a village on the Northern Coast, to attend the ceremony at T’kemlups Powwow arbour on Saturday.

Saturday was the second year a convoy was organized from Kelowna to Kamloops to show support for the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops.

Last year's convoy was organized shortly after ground-penetrating radar uncovered what are believed to be the remains of 215 children buried on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

During the ceremony, Stevens spoke about his family’s history with residential schools and one of his grandchildren read a poem Stevens wrote shortly after the news of the discovery broke.

“Come bring us home. Come bring us home,” Stevens’ grandchild read for the crowd.

“They preach about the God of love. There is no love here.”

Stevens said many still don’t understand the effects residential schools had on the entire Indigenous community.

“Its a continuous cycle, and even after the school was closed, it was brought home, people didn't leave what they learned at the residential schools,” Stevens said.

“I wrote that poem when they found the 215 children and it hit hard.”

Last years convoy, saw hundreds of supporters coming from all over the country. Saturday’s demonstration saw only a small fraction of participants.

Stevens said enough hasn’t been done by the government and after only a year the news of the remains at the residential school has blown over for Canadians.

“There is no reconciliation,” Stevens told Castanet Kamloops.

“Where was the uproar? We still don't see an uproar. People are wanting to go turning their backs turning away from this.”

He said shows of support like Saturday’s convoy need to continue.

“There’s been a half assed apology [from the government] and an apology from the Pope with no meaning to it and I feel like it's not enough.”

Mike Otto, a Kelowna business owner responsible for organizing the convoys said he plans to make it an annual demonstration.

“There's still a lot of work to be done,” Otto told Castanet Kamloops.

“We still need answers and [to hold] people accountable for what they did in the past. It’s still a long journey.”

The Kamloops Punjabi Bikers were joined by members of the Sikh Riders of Canada, the Legendary Sikh Riders and the Sikh Motorcycle Club to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors.

Pav Gill from the Kamloops Punjabi Bikers said after the discovery last year, the club made a promise the T’kemlups community they would come to the band grounds every year in memory of the lost children.

“In any community when there's a loss of a child, it's very horrific because children are our future and in our community they're very, very important individuals,” Gill said.

“So the discovery really hurt everybody and it really hit home.”

He said continued support is very important to ensure the lost children are never forgotten.

“It's very important for everyone to know that this happened and the injustice that happened in the past and is continuing to happen today," he said.

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