Government lends support to Indigenous communities to heal from impacts of residential schools

  • Canada is listening and will continue to listen to First Nations, Inuit and Métis Survivors and their families

The Government of Canada says it is taking action to enhance support for Indigenous Peoples and communities as they continue to respond to and heal from the intergenerational trauma of residential schools.

To create a historical record of children who did not return home from residential schools, Canada continues to support communities as they locate burial sites and commemorate and memorialize the innocent lost lives.

Government officials, including Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, announced $321 million in additional support for Indigenous-led, Survivor-centric and culturally informed initiatives and investments to help Indigenous communities respond to and heal from the ongoing impacts of residential schools.

“Our thoughts remain with those Indigenous children who never returned home, the Survivors, families, and communities as they mourn and heal. We are engaged and focused on collaboration with First Nations, Inuit and Métis partners. We will be there to support their difficult and important work to locate, memorialize and commemorate the lost children,” said Bennett.

Others involved in the announcement include; Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services; Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage; and Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.

Of this funding, $83 million will supplement existing investments for community-led processes to research and locate burial sites as well as to commemorate and memorialize the children who died at residential schools. These resources are in addition to the $27.1 million which is part of the $33.8 million committed in Budget 2019 to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action 72 to 76, bringing the Government of Canada’s commitment to $116.8 million to support this important work.

Additionally, work is underway by Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada to establish a National Advisory Committee to advise communities and the Government of Canada on the work to locate burial sites. In consultation with National Indigenous Organizations, the Committee will consist of Indigenous knowledge holders and experts in areas such as archaeology, forensics, pathology and mental health.

“We know that Indigenous communities, families and friends are hurting. There isn’t a single community that is not grieving today. We also know that communities across the country need supports and we are committed to working with Indigenous leaders to do so, in partnership with them. For months and years, we have heard atrocious anecdotes that only remind us that calling those ‛schools’ can only be a euphemism. Now is the time to start fulfilling our duty to help first Nations, Inuit and Métis recover the truth. Today’s announcement is the first step in that direction,” said Miller.

Residential school buildings hold painful memories, and many communities are currently discussing what they would like to do with these structures going forward. Canada will continue to support community plans to manage these buildings—whether those plans include demolition, rehabilitation or the construction of new facilities on reserve so that activities currently taking place in these buildings can continue. Canada will provide $100.1 million over two years to support this work. To access this support, as well as support for the location, commemoration and memorialization of remains, communities can apply through the Residential Schools Missing Children – Community Support Funding Program.

Residential schools have created enduring trauma and intergenerational harm. For many, recent confirmation of burial sites has brought up painful memories, and impacted their mental health. To ensure that Survivors have emotional and cultural support during this time, Canada made a three-year investment through Budget 2021 to renew essential mental health, culture and emotional supports for residential school Survivors and their families as well as those impacted by Federal Day Schools.

Canada is also investing a further $107.3 million in 2021 and 2022 to support the expansion of these services to ensure that those impacted by intergenerational traumas will have access to these supports. Investments through Budget 2021 are also supporting the continuation of the Indian Residential School Crisis Line for Survivors and their families.

“The legacy of the residential school system is a painful reminder to us all as Canadians, of past wrongs and we must come together on the shared path toward reconciliation. It begins with educating ourselves about the impacts that these institutions had on thousands of the most vulnerable members of our society, innocent children, and the intergenerational trauma that continues to impact individuals and families. Today we are taking an important step forward in partnership with Indigenous Peoples,” said Honourable Daniel Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs.

As evidenced by the many commemorative displays of shoes, stuffed animals and other artifacts including signs, pictures and messages, that have been set up across Canada in honour of children who attended residential schools, including on Parliament Hill, Canadians are learning about the impacts of residential schools and of the many children who never returned home. These are truths First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities have lived with for many generations and were documented in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report and Calls to Action. Addressing the legacy of residential schools will take time, and Canada will undertake this work in partnership with Indigenous people and communities.

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