By Emilee Gilpin
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered a historic apology on Monday in the House of Commons, more than 150 years in the making, exonerating six chiefs from the Tsilhqot'in Nation who were unjustly killed by a colonial government in British Columbia.
"Today our government acknowledges what the colonial government of the day was unwilling to accept: that these six chiefs were leaders and warriors of the Tsilhqot’in Nation, and that the Tsilhqot’in people they led maintained rights to land that had never been ceded," Trudeau told the Commons.
"Even though the colonial government did not recognize these rights, the chiefs acted in accordance with their own laws to defend their territory, their people, and their way of life."
Tsilhqot’in chiefs, elders and community members traveled to Ottawa for the event. It was also a historic day for the House of Commons. It was the first time that chiefs from a First Nation were welcomed on the floor while the Commons was in session. National chiefs have been welcomed as representatives, but never as a nation.
The remainder of the Tsilhqot'in delegation were joined by co-chairs for the nation's negotiations, Shawn and Heather Atleo, as well as Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde, and watched the proceedings from a gallery above the floor of the Commons. The event was live-streaming in the Tl'etinqox (one of six Tsilhqot'in communities) School gymnasium, for family and friends to participate from home.
"The recognition and implementation of Indigenous rights can wait no longer," the prime minister said "And neither should the Tsilhqot’in people continue to wait for an apology that is long, long overdue."