Government of Canada supports Indigenous communities across the country to address the ongoing legacy of residential schools
Ottawa, traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg Nation, Ontario — Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada
As we approach the one year anniversary of the tragic locating of unmarked burials at the former Kamloops Residential School, we acknowledge our country’s inherited past and the shameful legacy that comes with it.
On May 16, the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations; the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services; the Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage; the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada; the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada; the Honourable Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety; and the Honourable Daniel Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs, Minister responsible for Prairies Economic Development Canada and Minister responsible for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency; provided an update on the Government of Canada’s actions to support First Nations, Inuit and Métis-led, Survivor-centric and culturally informed initiatives helping Indigenous communities respond to, and heal from the ongoing impacts of residential schools.
The Government of Canada has been working directly with communities to support their plans to locate and commemorate children who never returned from residential schools through Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada’s Residential School Missing Children’s – Community Support Funding program. Specifically in relation to searches, $78.3 million has been delivered to Indigenous communities across the country to support 70 initiatives in research, knowledge gathering, commemoration, memorialization, and fieldwork investigation around the sites of former residential schools.
Communities are leading a variety of initiatives. For example, Bigstone Health Commission has established an Elder Advisory Committee to oversee archival research, interviews, gatherings for Survivors, and ground penetrating radar at both residential school sites. Esk’etemc First Nation is working on a future Spirit Walk or run to commemorate Survivors and those children who did not return home. These and other community-led initiatives have ensured that communities can continue this important work in their own way and at their own pace.
Budget 2022 has allocated an additional $122 million over the next three years to the Residential School Missing Children’s – Community Support Funding program, bringing the Government of Canada’s total investment to $238.8 million to date to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action 72 to 76 on residential schools missing children and burial information.
To ensure communities have a trusted source providing access to professional assistance in the delicate work to locate burial sites, work is being finalized to establish the National Advisory Committee on Residential Schools Missing Children and Unmarked Burials. The Committee will consist of approximately 12 to 15 members with specific expertise in areas such as forensic anthropology or archeology, archival research, Indigenous cultural protocols, communication and financial administration. These members will offer technical expertise and professional advice to communities and the Government of Canada. The Committee will also include three Elders/Knowledge Keepers.
The Government of Canada will support the appointment of an Independent Special Interlocutor to work with First Nations, Inuit and Métis governments, representative organizations, communities and families, provinces and territories and others to recommend a new federal framework to ensure the respectful and culturally appropriate treatment of unmarked graves and burial sites of children at former residential schools. The Government of Canada recognizes the need to move forward with the selection of the Special Interlocutor and is working in collaboration with Indigenous partners towards an appointment as quickly as possible. The federal government has also collaborated with Indigenous leadership and legal experts to define the Special Interlocutor’s mandate.
The Government of Canada continues to take necessary steps to ensure the complete disclosure of federal documents related to residential schools, while respecting Survivors’ wishes, legislation, court orders, settlement agreements and ongoing litigation. Canada will also support the digitization of millions of documents relating to the federal Indian Day School System (Day School System), which will ensure Survivors and all Canadians have meaningful access to them.
In addition, many communities are expressing a desire to address the legacy buildings and sites associated with residential schools. To help communities deal with these buildings and the painful memories they represent, Canada committed $100.1 million through Indigenous Services Canada to support community plans to manage former residential school buildings on reserves. This funding will support activities such as building demolition, land remediation or the construction of new facilities so that any community-based activities that currently take place in these buildings can continue. Canada, with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, is researching the status of residential school properties to better understand the current state of any remaining buildings and former residential school locations.
Further, to support the mental health and wellbeing of Survivors directly, Canada invested $107.3 million in 2021-2022 through Indigenous Services Canada to support the expansion of trauma-informed cultural and emotional supports for residential school Survivors and others impacted by the legacy of residential schools. Additionally, Budget 2022 proposes $227.6 million over two years, starting in 2022-23, to maintain trauma-informed, culturally appropriate, Indigenous-led services to improve mental wellness, and to support efforts initiated through Budget 2021 related to distinctions-based mental health and wellness initiatives.
The Government of Canada remains committed to ensuring that the tragic history and ongoing legacy of residential schools is never forgotten by supporting commemorative initiatives, including $5 million this year events and activities to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30, as well as $20 million for the establishment of a national monument. On April 29, 2022, through Canadian Heritage, a Survivor-led Steering Committee was announced to guide work on a Residential Schools National Monument, that will be installed in Ottawa. The monument will honour Survivors and the children who never returned to their families and communities.
The Government of Canada will continue to support the important and ongoing work to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 79iii, building on the 2020 designation of the Residential School System as a national historic event, and the designation of four former residential schools as national historic sites: former Portage La Prairie Residential School in Manitoba (designated 2020), former Shubenacadie Residential School in Nova Scotia (designated 2020), former Shingwauk Residential School in Ontario (designated 2021), former Muscowequan Residential School in Saskatchewan (designated 2021).
Addressing the harms suffered by Survivors, their families and communities is at the heart of reconciliation and is essential to renewing and building relationships with Indigenous Peoples, governments, and all Canadians.