Funding comes in wake of Sept. 30 designation of Truth and Reconciliation Day

By James Rose
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The federal government announced on Aug. 10 that it is committing $321 million toward programs to help indigenous communities search burial sites at former residential schools and to support survivors and their communities.

An interlocutor will be appointed to work with indigenous communities and the government to propose changes to federal laws, policies, and practices related to unmarked graves at residential schools. Justice Minister David Lametti announced via a virtual news conference.

$107 million will be earmarked for programs to provide mental health, culture and emotional services to help communities recover from intergenerational trauma. $83 million will be added to an existing $27 million program to fund searches of burial sites and commemorate the children who died at residential schools. $20 million will be spent on building a national monument in Ottawa. $100 million will be provided over two years to help indigenous communities manage residential school buildings.

Since June, three indigenous communities announced the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves located at the sites of former residential schools.

The Lower Kootenay Band in British Columbia found what are believed to be 182 human remains at the former St. Eugene Mission Residential School. Cowessess First Nation found 751 unmarked graves at the former Marieval Indian Residential School east of Regina a few weeks after discovering the remains of 215 children in Kamloops.

In June, the federal government formally designated Sept. 30 as a public holiday. National Day for Truth and Reconciliation will be observed to honour First Nations, Inuit and Métis survivors and their families and communities. The designation aims to ensure the public commemoration of their history and the legacy of residential schools.

On Aug. 3, the B.C. government followed suit by marking the last day of September as a day of commemoration. “Over the last two months, Canadians have been coming to terms with what survivors of residential schools have always known,” Murray Rankin said in a press release. Rankin is the minister of indigenous relations and reconciliation. “Indigenous peoples are bringing to light the true history of this country and the atrocities of the residential school system.”