B.C. provides $12 million to First Nations investigating former residential schools

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government says it’s providing $12 million to support First Nations with investigative work at former residential school sites.

It says the funding will also go towards programs to help community members experiencing trauma after the recent discoveries of what are believed to be the remains of 215 children at a former school in Kamloops, and 751 unmarked graves in Saskatchewan.

In a news release, the province says the funding will help First Nations identify, investigate, document, maintain, protect or commemorate residential school sites where children’s remains may be located.

It says the province, the federal government and B.C.’s First Nations Health Authority are working with a number of nations that have requested assistance in determining the next steps for removing structures and searching other sites.

It says those nations include the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc, whose leadership announced the finding in Kamloops last month, and the Daylu Dena Council in Lower Post, where a former residential school is slated for demolition.

Indigenous Relations Minister Murray Rankin says in the statement that many sites across B.C. and Canada are the source of unanswered questions.

“Finding evidence of a burial site for children who attended the former Kamloops residential school was a stark reminder of the atrocities of the Canadian residential school system and how those continue to be felt to this day,” he said in the news release on Monday.

Charlene Belleau, chair of the First Nations Health Council, says the money is an important first step in supporting the healing of Indigenous people in B.C.

Ottawa has pledged further support for the identification and investigation of burial grounds near former residential schools after allocating $27 million in 2019.

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