Communities will tell government the way forward on Residential Schools response: Bennett

By: Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Iori:wase
Federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said the horrific discovery of the bodies of 215 unidentified Indigenous childrens outside a B.C. Residential School was traumatic for many and it’s time to commemorate victims of Residential Schools and support the communities affected by them, she said Wednesday morning from her home in Toronto.
“Communities know what they need and we’ll be there to support them and help them find their way forward,” she said. “Since 2019, we have been working with survivors of Residential Schools to support them. We know this process must be Indigenous-led, community-centric and we will be responsive in terms of their wishes for proper commemoration and re-burial in their communities.”
At the same time, federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller called the news “heavy, painful and real for Indigenous people.”
Miller added that the time has come “for more education and for us to ask hard questions,” he said, adding that it was long past time for the community to find some level of healing after years of Residential Schools “intergenerational trauma.”
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the House of Commons that the children found in Kamloops and others who have “yet to be found in other places across the country, would have been grandparents or great-grandparents.”
Trudeau said Canada is squarely to blame for the tragedy. “They would have been Elders, Knowledge Keepers and community leaders,” he continued. “They are not, and that is the fault of Canada.”
Miller said the government has released $27 million in funding for human resources, research and commemoration but will not commit to concrete action other than funding for the moment because of the wishes of the community.
“We have been told that the community does not want us to get involved and we will respect those wishes. The communities will tell us what to do. They have asked us specifically to give them space. We will provide mental-health support but they have made a number of specific requests and we will honour those requests,” Miller said, adding that his staff has reached out across the country to see about the post-traumatic stress of the discovery in other First Nations communities
“There is trauma in the re-opening of these wounds, and we know that, but we are focused on the communities that have been directly affected by the discovery,” he said, adding that examining the latent trauma can and will require support in the future.
Health Canada chief medical officer Dr. Tom Wong also expressed his “profound sadness at the heart-wrenching,” discovery of the remains.