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B.C. commits $12M to aid First Nations in residential school site searches

Funds come one month after the unmarked graves of 215 children were found in Kamloops
A memorial is seen outside the Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., Sunday, June, 13, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

The Indian Residential School Survivors Society is offering toll-free 24-hour telephone support for survivors and their families at 1 (866) 925-4419. The KUU-US Crisis Line Society’s 24-hour line is available at 1-800-588-8717.

The B.C. government said Monday (June 28) that it will provide $12 million in funding to help First Nations in the province investigate former residential school sites, as well as help survivors with the trauma.

The move comes just over one month after the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School by the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc.

Since then, unmarked graves have been found at the Brandon Residential school in Manitoba by the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation and at the Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan by the Cowessess First Nation.

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 co-ordinated way to support their needs.”

First Nations Health Authority CEO Richard Jock said the organization was “pleased” to see the money.

“”Acknowledging trauma and the damaging and lasting impacts residential school have on First Nations people, their families and communities is a first step,” Jock said.

Other provinces have already committed funds to investigations at residential school sites; Ontario has pledged $10 million while Manitoba has promised $2.5 million. There were about 140 residential schools in Canada from the 1800s until the last one closed down in 1996, of which 18 were in B.C. At least 150,000 Indigenous children were forcibly sent to the facilities and even incomplete records show that deaths were in the thousands. Families were typically not informed when their children died, whether due to abuse, malnutrition, diseases or neglect.

READ MORE: Time to account for all child deaths at Canada’s residential schools: Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc

READ MORE: B.C. Catholic archbishop apologizes for ‘unquestionably wrong’ residential schools


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