Vancouver Island MLA says B.C. premier's remarks on residential school deaths 'incredibly unfortunate'

The MLA for Saanich North and the Islands is calling on the B.C. government to increase funding for Indigenous initiatives after the remains of 215 children were found buried at a former residential school site in Kamloops last week.

MLA Adam Olsen, who is a member of the Tsartlip First Nation on Vancouver Island, says funding should be made immediately available for trauma and healing services, Indigenous language restoration, and reconstruction of Indigenous places of government.

Olsen spoke to other members of the legislature Monday, after Premier John Horgan expressed his condolences to everyone affected by the discovery.

"Each child has been forever taken from a family and a community that loved them," said Horgan in a statement Friday. "This is a tragedy of unimaginable proportions."

He added on Monday that the discovery of the children's remains was a crucial reminder of the painful "living memory" that affects people in B.C. today.

"It's unimaginable to us today and yet is a very active part of who we are as Canadians," said Horgan.

Following Horgan's remarks, Olsen said that more funding for First Nations projects should be made available immediately.

"There was a statement from this institution that noted the 'unimaginable proportions' of this tragedy," said Olsen. "This is an incredibly unfortunate characterization of the situation that we carry. For Indigenous people, this story is not shocking, nor is it 'unimaginable.' This is the trauma that our families have carried for generations."

"In honour of those children buried in unmarked graves, in honour of our families who had a child who never came home from school, we must make those resources immediately available for trauma and healing services," said Olsen.

The island MLA added that the province has long benefited from land that was acquired through the residential school system or other "disgraceful policies."

"It's time for the representatives in this chamber to stop talking about how we can't do this and start talking about ways that we can do it," said Olsen in regards to the increased funding of Indigenous initiatives.