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Dr. Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., calls on Canada to "truly empower First Nations"

Chief Robert Joseph, Bernice King and Karen Joseph at the Marriott Hotel on Saturday. Photo by Krystle Alarcon

She was shocked to hear about the pain and suffering Aboriginal people have gone through in Canada's Indian residential school system, Dr. Bernice King, Martin Luther King’s youngest child, told a group of media yesterday at the Marriott Hotel. 

“I’m a little mum right now because I just spent a lot of time sharing with the chief and his daughter, hearing what has been taking place here for decades and the after-effects. And I’m still processing a lot of it,” she said.

Referring to the experiences of Chief Robert Joseph and Karen Joseph of the Gwawaenuk First Nation, Dr. King spoke of the abuse that Canada's indigenous people have experienced. Chief Robert Joseph is the ambassador to Reconciliation Canada, a local charity promoting a value called ‘Namwayut, which means “we are all one.” Karen Joseph is its executive director.

King said the government must do more than issue apologies and offer settlements to Aboriginal people.

“Going forward there must be opportunities made to truly empower First Nations people,” she said.

But she acknowledged that the after effects of what First Nation people have endured since Europeans first arrived in Canada would not be erased overnight.

“It takes years and years, even generations. We still suffer as an African American community,” she said.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis while he was crusading for the poor, she said. “He saw economic injustice and racial injustice as inseparable twins."

She then paraphrased her mother’s words, insisting that the government match the number of years it dedicates to reconciliation to the same length of time Indian residential schools existed.

“When you do something against the people for so many years, you also have to turn around and do something for those people for the same amount of years…Eighty or 100 years of almost animalistic abuse is not cured in two or three years,” she said.

A Baptist minister, King spoke of humanity’s responsibility to be moral and ethical as “the highest forms of God’s creation."

“We have the ability to have higher conscience. And that’s the area that we have not developed as much as we should have by now.”

She publicized her views on being anti-abortion, which she shares with her father, she said, when she spoke at a Washington event to celebrate her father’s 50th anniversary of his famous “I have a dream” speech in August.

She was appointed as the CEO for the Martin Luther King, J. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in January.

King will deliver the keynote address at 9:30 am today at the Queen Elizabeth Plaza in downtown Vancouver.


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