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Indian residential schools: the federal government revises its promises and recognizes the work to come

Nearly a year after the first reported discovery of a burial site at the former Indian residential school in Kamloops, the federal government has taken stock of the promises it has made since to “uncover the truth”, including many are still in progress. .

Crown Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller acknowledged on Monday that while the government has made some steps towards reconciliation, “it has been too slow.”

“We know that reconciliation does not come easily, but we remain committed to making further progress in righting past wrongs and current impacts that are still being felt today,” he said at a meeting. press conference in Ottawa.

The minister referred to a previously announced promise to create a national residential schools monument in Ottawa, but without a clear timeline for when construction should begin, and another promise in Budget 2022 to provide $25 million over three years to the Library and Archives Canada to support the digitization of records relating to the Federal Indian Day School System.

An additional $78.3 million has been distributed to Indigenous communities to support more than 70 research, knowledge-gathering, commemoration, commemoration and field investigation initiatives around former residential school sites, Miller said.

On May 27, 2021, Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation said the remains of 215 children were found at the site of the former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia.

Although that figure was later revised to 200, hundreds more unmarked graves have been identified across the country in the months since, with dozens more searches now underway or planned.

More than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were mostly driven from their families to attend residential schools from the late 1800s to 1996, in an effort to replace Indigenous languages ​​and culture with English and Christian beliefs.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which released its final report on the residential school system in 2015, says at least one in every 50 students has died, of which 4,100 are officially dead, although the number is thought to be much higher. .

Miller refuted a question from a member of the media suggesting that Monday’s press conference could have been seen as an attempt by government officials to congratulate each other ahead of the grim anniversary, without announcing new funding or initiatives.

“This is a process of reckoning and giving Canadians insight into what we need to do as a country to be better and move forward in a way that we haven’t done in the past. past. So if anyone thought we were going to stand here today and look for some good press, you totally missed the point and if it’s my fault, it’s my fault,” he said. declared.

“It’s about showing Canadians that we’re trying to do our best for a very painful part of our history.

Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu echoed a similar sentiment.

“The process of truth is not a one-time announcement. It’s not a specific day. It is not a specific investment. The process of realizing for many Canadians last summer that Indigenous children were not just being apprehended from schools and placed in residential schools… that was information for many Canadians,” Hajdu said.

“So part of our journey as a government, as a country, as nations is telling the truth as we find out.”

Hajdu noted that since this spring, his ministry has begun consultations with all First Nations who had a former residential school on reserve to determine that community’s “wishes” on how they would like to proceed.

She also addressed funding for enhanced mental health services, culture-based learning and trauma-informed supports.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister David Lametti provided an update on Ottawa’s proposal to appoint an independent special interlocutor who would liaise with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities and the government on a new framework. legislation to ensure culturally appropriate treatment of burial sites.

“We are now approaching a date and there will be news to share very soon,” he said. “Sometimes good things take time.”

Regarding the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action 72 to 76 – centered on missing children and burial information – ministers said Ottawa’s full investment in this area will amounted to “well over half a billion dollars”.

With files from Michael Lee and Maggie Parkhill of CTV News


If you are a former residential school student in distress or have been impacted by the Indian residential school system and need assistance, you can contact the 24-hour Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1- 866-925-4419, or the Indian Residential Schools Service Survivors Society Toll-Free Line at 1-800-721-0066.

Additional mental health support and resources for Indigenous people are available here.

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