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Canada TRC requested $1.5M to find mass graves at residential schools. The feds denied the money in 2009

16:46  01 june  2021
16:46  01 june  2021 Source:   globalnews.ca

Trudeau says federal government will help find other residential school gravesites

  Trudeau says federal government will help find other residential school gravesites OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged Monday to help uncover burial sites at other residential schools after the remains of 215 children were found at a former school in Kamloops, British Columbia. The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announced late last week that ground penetrating radar had covered the remains at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, which was in operation as a residential school until 1969. The school had thousands of children pass through over the 80 years it was in operation.

Warning: Some of the details in this story may be disturbing to some readers. Discretion is advised.

a sign in front of a brick building: The former Kamloops Indian Residential School is seen on Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops, B.C. on Thursday, May 27, 2021. The remains of 215 children have been found buried on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. © THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Snucins The former Kamloops Indian Residential School is seen on Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops, B.C. on Thursday, May 27, 2021. The remains of 215 children have been found buried on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

More than 10 years ago, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC), asked the federal government to help fund a series of projects that would identify burial site locations of children at Canadian residential schools.

Discovery of mass grave at residential school provides stark reminder of lack of progress on TRC 94 Calls to Action

  Discovery of mass grave at residential school provides stark reminder of lack of progress on TRC 94 Calls to Action The finding of the remains of 215 children in an unmarked mass grave on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, announced last week by the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation leadership, provides a stark reminder. Six years after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on Indian residential schools leveled 94 Calls to Action, few of them have been completed. The Pope has yet to apologize for the Indian residential schools operated by the Catholic Church. The Kamloops school, once the largest residential school with about 500 students at its peak, was operated by the Catholic Church from 1893 to 1969.

The funding for this, around $1.5 million, was denied by the feds, which was led by former prime minister Stephen Harper at the time.

Read more: Trudeau vows ‘concrete action’ after discovery of 215 bodies at former residential school site

On Monday, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett, tweeted about the TRC request, saying the "TRC report established clearly that this was an issue that needed to be addressed urgently and unfortunately the request for funding from the working group in 2009 was denied."

The call for national funding in locating the burial sites of children at former residential schools, is once again, under the spotlight.

Last week, the remains of 215 children, some as young as three years old, were found buried at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the news as heartbreaking on Friday, a day after the announcement was made by Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc Chief Rosanne Casimir.

On Monday, he promised "concrete action" to help support survivors, families and Indigenous peoples.

Katherine Ainsley Morton, a Ph.D. candidate at Memorial University Newfoundland and a researcher working on anti-colonial research on residential schools, argued there should be "less talk" from the federal government and more "action."

"There should not be a financial barrier to return children who were killed in residential schools to their communities," she said. "Funding is so critical in making sure this important work takes place."

Ottawa has millions still to spend on missing children and cemetery searches

  Ottawa has millions still to spend on missing children and cemetery searches The federal government has more than $27 million set aside for Indigenous groups who wish to search for cemeteries of Indigenous children who died at residential schools.Victor (Fort Resolution).

Video: ‘The country is reeling’: Singh comments on discovery of children’s remains at site of former B.C. residential school

On Monday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called on the government to work with Indigenous leaders to fully fund investigations into potential mass burial sites across Canada.

"Because the sad reality is this isn't the last site, there are many others that have been found and there will be more that will be found. Indigenous communities deserve to have the justice to make sure every site like this is uncovered," he said at a media conference.

There is currently no federal "streamlined, easy to access funding" to support an investigation into missing children and possible burial sites across Canada, Morton said.

If communities want to look into a possible burial site, there are a lot of "barriers," as some bands have to pursue their own independent funds, whereas others have to apply for provincial funds.

For example, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation received a grant from B.C.’s Pathway to Healing program, which allowed the nation to pay for ground-penetrating radar in finding the 215 children.

Terry Glavin: Canadians have known about unmarked residential school graves for years. They just kept forgetting

  Terry Glavin: Canadians have known about unmarked residential school graves for years. They just kept forgetting It’s a gut-wrenching and dreadful way to begin the month of June, which was designated Indigenous History Month by Justin Trudeau’s government in 2017, from the Aboriginal History Month declared by Stephen Harper’s government in 2009, which arose from the June 21 Aboriginal History Day declared by Jean Chrétien in 1996, deriving from a proposal from the Assembly of First Nations’ forerunner, the National Indian Brotherhood, in 1982. The first The first headlines appeared last week in a local news report in British Columbia’s southern interior, then quickly spread across Canada, and then around the world: “Mass grave of Indigenous children discovered in Kamloops.

"But there isn't a clear way to access these funds," Morton added.

Global News emailed Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada about the need for funding Indigenous communities so they can research and manually search the ground of former residential schools for burial sites, but did not hear back at the time of publication.

According to the TRC, 4,100 children died while attending residential schools. But that number has now gone up another 215 deaths, since the tragic news of the Kamloops burial site.

The TRC's Missing Children and Unmarked Burial Project, started in 2007, has sought to find who and how many residential school students have died as well as where they are buried.

Volume 4 of the TRC report said in 2009 the project proposed four proposals, which would help identify how many children died in residential schools and where they were buried.

This included:

A statistical survey for an accurate estimate of student enrollment, including rates of death and disease at residential schools.

A study that would review administrative policies of these schools relating to death, illness and missing students.

A study intended to identify the location of cemeteries and gravesites in which students are believed to be buried.

Catholics need to 'ask their church to do better' in the wake of Kamloops discovery, minister says

  Catholics need to 'ask their church to do better' in the wake of Kamloops discovery, minister says Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said Wednesday that Roman Catholic parishioners need to demand better from their church, which has so far refused to apologize for its role in the residential school system or release documents that could shed light on unmarked grave sites.Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller also said it's "shameful" that the church has so far ducked offering a clear apology to the many thousands of students who were forcibly confined at sites run by the church.

A project to help locate information regarding former students who may have died or gone missing while in the care of residential schools, including locating burial sites.

The estimated cost of the project was "in excess of $1.5 million," according to the report.

In 2009, the TRC requested the funds from then Indian Affairs, but it was denied in December 2009.

"The federal government’s denial of this request has placed significant limits on the Commission’s ability to fully implement the working group’s proposals, despite our sincerest belief in their importance," the report stated.

Alex Maass, the former lead archaeologist of the TRC's Missing Children’s Project, told Calgary's The YY Scene in 2012, the project was restricted by underfunding.

Read more: Work underway for forensics experts to identify and repatriate B.C. school remains

She said she had visited schoolyard cemeteries across Canada in an attempt to find where missing children were buried. But the process of finding the unmarked graves was slow because the "TRC suffers from a chronic lack of funding."

“That second step of doing the ground-penetrating radar is not something that we’re funded to do,” she told the media outlet. “There are approximately 140 schools on the list now. ... There will be probably as many cemeteries as there are schools and in five years we just don’t have the time to do an in-depth investigation of each one of them.”

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society, told Global News that the underfunding of Indigenous projects, like the missing Children Project, is repeated in history.

The Kamloops graves put Truth and Reconciliation back in the spotlight, but will it stay there?

  The Kamloops graves put Truth and Reconciliation back in the spotlight, but will it stay there? OTTAWA – In a minority House of Commons, legislation generally moves slowly, but sometimes events, usually tragedies, force swift action. Canada declared war on Germany 10 days after the invasion of Poland. Damaging railway or airline strikes have been legislated to an end in hours, and when the pandemic began, MPs decided overnight on a plan to shutter the Commons. This week, the tragedy spurring action was not a fresh scar, but an old wound in the form of 215 small and unmarked graves at a residential school in Kamloops, B.C. — deaths that pierced Canadians’ image of what this country is.

"They're making a conscious choice that these kids are not worth the money," she said. "Like these inequalities, like water, etc., like they were always complaining, 'Oh, well, we don't have the money,' therefore, the default is, 'We're going to racially discriminate against children as fiscal policy.'"

Under the TRC, there are six proposals for the Missing Children Project.

Video: Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond on B.C.’s residential schools

Among them is a call for former residential school students to establish an online registry of residential school cemeteries, including, plot maps showing the location of deceased children.

According to the Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada website, the 2019 federal budget announced $33.8 million over three years to develop and maintain the National Residential School Student Death Register and help maintain an online registry of residential school cemeteries.

Morton argues more needs to be done to help Indigenous communities find the unmarked graves, as there may be many more sites across Canada.

The same survey techniques used in Kamloops — such as the use of ground-penetrating radar to detect bodies — are needed, she said, as well as funds to access archival research, like residential schools survivor stories and archives from the churches or provinces.

"The research components have a cost associated, but the actual physical work of searching the grounds itself would also have a cost component," she said.

As Pope defies calls for apology, residential school statement not ‘enough’: minister .
The Catholic Pope has for years defied calls from both the Canadian government and the public to apologize for the central role his church played in Canada's residential schools.It is not "enough" for Pope Francis to express his sorrow following the discovery of the remains of 215 children at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

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