The British Columbia government has put aside $12 million to support First Nations with investigative work to find gravesites at former residential schools.
Part of the funds will also go towards cultural and wellness support for communities and members experiencing trauma from the residential school findings.
“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 Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “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.”
Provincial officials said they have been working very closely with Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, Indigenous Services Canada and the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) to support Nation-led responses.
According to provincial officials, the funding will help identify, investigate, document, maintain, protect and/or commemorate residential school sites where children’s remains may be located, while supporting community-led strategies.
“We are pleased to see the B.C. government’s commitment to supporting First Nations in this work,” said Richard Jock, CEO, FNHA. “Acknowledging trauma and the damaging and lasting impacts residential schools 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 FNHA and provincial and federal governments are working together to coordinate mental health and cultural support. Provincial officials said the support will be available for survivors and families in both Indigenous communities and urban areas.
A search of the grounds around St. Eugene Mission will be conducted this summer.
“We ask for privacy and patience as we undertake this important work to honour our ancestors,” said ʔaq̓am officials.
MORE: Former residential school grounds at ʔaq̓am to be searched (June 24th, 2021)
The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24-hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of his or her Residential school experience or for those affected by these reports. The 24-hour crisis line is available at 1-866-925-4419.
**Story by Josiah Spyker**