Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon MP Brad Vis recently spoke before the House of Commons on the discovery of the mass grave at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops.
Vis, whose riding encompasses Agassiz-Harrison and borders Kamloops, was in Mission when he spoke to some of his Indigenous constituents directly victimized by the residential school system. St. Mary’s in Mission was among the last residential schools in Canada to close, shutting down in 1984; the foundation of the building are now part of Mission’s Fraser River Heritage Park.
While Vis told the constituents he wasn’t equipped to speak directly on their behalf, he brought two main points from the conversation to the House of Commons – the need for better education on residential schools and funding for cultural training and healing for First Nations communities.
“We need better education. Children today still don’t know enough; we’re not teaching enough about the atrocities that took place in Canada and we can do better,” Vis said, quoting his constituents. “They were pleased to see so many people paying attention to the issue that’s been stuck in their hearts for their entire life, but more needs to be done.”
On federal funding for cultural training and healing, Vis said his constituents were concerned those in the workforce are held back by the trauma they faced from the residential school system. Federal funding for these programs would “ensure (First Nations communities) can empower their own people with federal funds to do a better job to help the people.”
Vis additionally said his constituents called for federal funding toward investigating all of the residential schools in Canada.
“I need to do a better job as a member of Parliament to reconcile with all of the First Nations I represent, and on behalf of my riding, I’m so sorry that this happened,” Vis concluded. “I share in the grief and the despair and trauma that has re-emerged in so many of my constituents who are suffering today.”