In December 2015, Tumia Knott, president of the Seyem’ Qwantlen Business Group, spoke to Township council about the “truth and reconciliation” initiative. Behind her are Michael Kelly-Gabriel (L) and Kevin Kelly (R).

Acknowledging the past

The legacy of residential schools has a profound impact on
Kwantlen First Nation, said Tumia Knott

Virtually every adult member of the Kwantlen First Nation in Langley Township has a parent or grandparent who was forcibly removed from their families and sent to Lower Mainland residential schools.

“Overwhelmingly, the majority of our Kwantlen elders are survivors of residential schools,” said Tumia Knott, president of the Seyem’ Qwantlen Business Group.

“The legacy of residential schools are profound and affect our community today.”

Knott was interviewed by The Times after she appeared before Township Council with a delegation from the Kwantlen First Nation to express support for a proposed municipal Truth and Reconciliation Task Force.

The idea of a municipal initiative comes after the final report from the federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC).

The TRC was created to document and preserve the experiences of school survivors after the federal government negotiated a $2 billion Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement to compensate 80,000 living residential students who suffered “sexual or serious physical abuses, or other abuses that caused serious psychological effects.”

In Langley Township, brothers and sisters were not only removed from their families against their will, but they were separated and sent to different schools.

“One sibling would go to one school, one would go to another,” Knott said.

Township council recently voted on a proposal by councillor Kim Richter to “consider striking a Truth and Reconciliation Task Force to address reconciliation with the First Nations.”

The item was referred to staff to provide council with a draft terms of reference for review.

In Vancouver, the council has announced it will be adopting several of the suggested actions recommended in the final TRC report.

In a statement issued on Jan. 19, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said council approved moving forward on 41 actions that are within its authority.

The actions include funding for two Aboriginal Healing and Wellness Centres; cultural competency training for senior municipal managers and staff and creation of a new Manager of Aboriginal Relations in the City Manager’s Office.

Vancouver council has also committed to integrating a ‘reconciliation’ theme in the planning and development of the Canada 150 celebration.