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Thursday, August 26, 2021

Canada pledges millions to search for residential school graves

By Al Jazeera Staff | 10 Aug 2021 

Warning: The story below contains details of residential schools that may be upsetting. Canada’s Indian Residential School Survivors and Family Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419.

Canada has promised tens of millions of dollars to help Indigenous communities in their search for unmarked graves linked to the government’s decades-long residential school system, which a commission of inquiry said in 2015 amounted to “cultural genocide”.

Hundreds of unmarked graves have been discovered since late May on the grounds of residential schools across Canada.

Between the late 1800s and 1990s, more than 150,000 First Nation, Inuit and Metis children were forced to attend the institutions, which aimed to forcibly assimilate them and destroy their cultures. Thousands of children are believed to have died there.

In a news conference in August, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said the government would provide an additional $66.2m ($83 million Canadian dollars) to help communities search for unmarked graves.

“As a country, we know the truth. Once you know the truth, you cannot unknow it. First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities have lived with the trauma caused by residential schools for generations,” Bennett said. “So today, we are announcing an additional $83 million in funding … to support more Indigenous communities in this extremely difficult and necessary work.”

The announcement comes as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is widely expected to trigger a snap election in the coming months amid countrywide calls for his government to do more to address the intergenerational trauma caused by residential schools.

Since hundreds of graves were first discovered at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in the western province of British Columbia in late May, Indigenous community leaders and residential school survivors and their families have been plunged into renewed trauma.

They have demanded Ottawa support Indigenous-led efforts to find more unmarked graves and pressure the Catholic Church – which ran most of the institutions – to release its records, apologise and pay reparations.


A child holds a flag that reads 'Every Child Matters' during a march in British Columbia after the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves of Indigenous children at residential schools across Canada [File: Kevin Light/Reuters]
A child holds a flag that reads 'Every Child Matters' during a march in British Columbia after the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves of Indigenous children at residential schools across Canada [File: Kevin Light/Reuters]
Source: Al Jazeera

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