British Columbia will spend millions of dollars investigating former residential school sites for unmarked graves.
On Monday, the B.C. government announced in a press release that they have allocated $12 million towards investigative work aimed at finding unmarked graves at former residential school sites across the province. Some of the money will also be used to help provide cultural and wellness supports for communities and members who are experiencing trauma as a result of the residential school site findings.
“Many other sites throughout the province and country are still the source of unanswered questions and terrible pain. It is imperative that we take our lead from First Nations as we move forward, and we will continue to act quickly and in a coordinated way to support their needs,” Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, said in the release.
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The province says a number of First Nations have requested assistance to determine how to move forward with conducting searches at other residential school sites in B.C. and that the money will help with “community-led strategies” aimed at identifying, investigating, documenting, maintaining, protecting, and paying tribute to residential school sites where children’s remains may be located.
“The provision of these funds for immediate use by First Nations in the aftermath of discoveries of remains at residential school sites is an important first step in supporting the resiliency and healing of B.C. First Nations people,” said Charlene Belleau, chair, First Nations Health Council. “We acknowledge our B.C. government partners for this effort, as our communities honour the spirit of these lost children.”
The provincial government says they, along with the federal government, and the First Nations Health Authority are working to support First Nation-led responses across B.C.
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“We are pleased to see the B.C. government’s commitment to supporting First Nations in this work,” Richard Jock, chief executive of the FNHA, said in therelease, adding. “Acknowledging trauma and the damaging and lasting impacts residential school have on First Nations people, their families and communities is a first step. The ongoing provision of culturally safe healing and wellness supports for B.C. First Nations must be communities-driven and Nation-based. This must be the primary focus going forward.”
The announcement comes roughly a month after the discovery of 215 children at the Kamloops Residential School and days after and less than a week after the Cowessess First Nation announced the discovery of 751 unmarked graves at a cemetery near the site of a former residential school in Saskatchewan.
“Finding evidence of a burial site for children who attended the former Kamloops residential school was a stark reminder of the atrocities of the Canadian residential school system and how those continue to be felt to this day,” said Rankin.
Editors Note: A National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419.