By Bree Duwyn
BRANTFORD-Brantford city council wants both the federal and provincial governments and the Anglican Church to release all records connected with the former Mohawk Institute Residential School on Six Nations lands adjacent to the city.
City Council voted unanimously at a special city council meeting Tuesday (May 17), in favour of a Notice of Motion calling for the release of all records documenting the former Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School’s operation from 1831 to 1970.
Brantford Mayor Kevin Davis acknowledged the city’s close proximity to the largest population of Indigenous peoples in Canada, before expressing Brantford’s shared grief for survivors and their families.
“We are grateful to the City of Brantford for their support and advocacy of our mandate to create a community archive by collecting all related records,” said Kimberly Murray, Survivors’ Secretariat Executive Oversight Lead in the release. Murray said they are still awaiting some 1,400 records from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. Those records include survivor statements and documents, letters and names of children forced to attend the school.
The city is believed to be the first municipality to call on the province and federal government and church to release the school’s records.
It also went on to address Ward 5 Councillor Joshua Wall, who worked closely with the Survivors’ Secretariat when drafting the Notice of Motion, who confirmed that this motion was developed in order to maintain respect in aid of the efforts of the organization.
“If the City of Brantford can release all records related to the Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School, other levels of government can too, because survivors and the families of those who never came home deserve to know the truth” said Councillor Wall.
Mayor Kevin Davis confirmed the city opened its archives to the secretariat last month . Researchers spent two days looking over the city’s archives finding maps and research files.
In the release, Survivors’ Secretariat representative Scott Robertson stood in front of council to provide details regarding the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to action in which the federal government is to work alongside churches, Indigenous communities and residential school survivors. In doing so, they are to create an online registry of residential school cemeteries and plot maps containing the location of where deceased residential school students may be buried.
“It is the aspiration of all involved that today marks the first step in this long journey to recovery,” said Robertson as he concluded his speech to council members.
The council also heard from three residential school survivors, Dawn Hill, Geronimo Henry and Diane Hill, who discussed the trauma they sustained at the Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School.
“We’re hoping that you’re going to be able to influence your neighbours,” said Dawn Hill in her statement to Brantford City Council regarding collaborating with other Ontario municipalities to address this motion. “We’re hoping that we’re on the right path between the two communities (Brantford and Six Nations) to be good neighbours.”
In support of the notice of motion, copies of the resolution will be sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Doug Ford, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Minister of Indigenous Services, Minister of Indigenous Affairs, as well as Six Nations Elected Chief Mark Hill and Credit First Nation Chief Stacey Laforme and Survivors’ Secretariat representatives. In addition, all municipalities in Ontario will be issued an invitation to adopt a similar resolution .
A search for unmarked graves at the institute is underway with ground penetrating radar . It began in November of 2021. The search will cover 600 acres of lands not only at the current school grounds but around it. The city is forwarding the resolution to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities hoping it will be sent to all municipalities, and in particular those within the Haldimand Tract that runs six miles on either side of the Grand River, 280 km from its source at Dundalk to its mouth at Lake Erie.