By: Laura Steiner
Ontario has announced plans to help the province’s Indigenous community search, and commemorate burial sites, thought to be on the grounds of the Residential Schools. $10 million in funding will also help with culturally appropriate trauma-informed mental health supports for survivors and their own families.
“Like all Ontarians, I was heartbroken by the news of a burial site containing the remains of 215 Indigenous communities to address the loss of generations who are no longer with us, and the continued loss experience by residential school survivors and their families,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said. The move follows the discovery of the remains of 215 children in an unmarked grave on the grounds of the Kamloops Residential School.
Residential Schools were a federal government initiative the majority of which, were operated by the Catholic church from 1870 and 1996. According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Ontario was home to 18 such schools. The last one closed in 1991. “With the government of Ontario committing to a full investigation of burial sites, Six Nations is encouraged in the hope that we will find all of our missing children and bring to light what happened to them. This is a step towards justice,” Chief Mark B. Hill of the Six Nations of the Grand River said.
“Indigenous leaders and Ontarians are looking to governments to commit to the work of investigating Indigenous Residential School burial sites on a priority basis and our government is taking action to support this process through to completion. Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford said. The province will work to identify resources including technical experts such as archaeologists, forensic specialists, and historians. Current estimates say that at least 426 children in Ontario Residential Schools are known to have died. There are an unknown number missing, leading provincial officials to believe the number of dead will increase.
If survivors are in need of help dealing with the trauma, please visit the Indian Residential Schools Survivors’ Society website for a list of resources.
By: Laura Steiner