CAP calls on feds to stay the course on funding Residential School gravesite projects

By Marc Lalonde

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A Canada-wide Indigenous organization is calling on the federal government to stay the course on funding gravesite identification and commemoration of the missing Indigenous children who never came home from Residential Schools in an effort to right the wrongs of Canada’s past.

With a year having passed since the first discovery of the remains of 215 people, likely children, around a former Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples is calling on the federal government, whose policies were responsible for the ripping of Indigenous children out of their homes and communities and taken away to Residential Schools, where they were stripped of their language and culture and often subject to horrific abuse, or worse.

Many Indigenous children never came home from those Residential Schools, making it a source of intergenerational trauma in most First Nations communities in Canada, and CAP wants to make sure the government lives up to its promise of righting these wrongs.

That begins with finding, identifying, and commemorating those children, CAP National Chief Elmer St. Pierre said.

“On the one-year anniversary of the discovery of these tragedies Canadians need to stand up to their elected officials and demand they take further action to ensure no child goes unfound,” St.

Pierre said. “The Prime Minister must continue to fund investigations so no family or community is left in the dark. He must also ensure that there are sufficient funds to help support the thousands of family members retraumatized by these ongoing discoveries.”

In a statement, CAP said the ongoing discoveries trigger extreme trauma for the communities whose children were taken from them and `experienced the abuse of Canada’s Residential School system firsthand. Children were violently stolen by the Government of Canada, with the intent of exterminating their culture, language and way of life. This was not an isolated incident. The survivors continue to carry the experience with them to this day and continue to fight against the destruction of their language, culture and communities.’

Crown-Indigenous Relations minister Marc Miller said the government will continue to support Indigenous communities as they undertake these heartbreaking searches.

“The Government of Canada continues to work with First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities who are undertaking the difficult and important work of searching for and commemorating the children who never came home,” Miller said. “While it is important for us to address past wrongs and educate ourselves, we also have to address the ongoing impacts of Residential Schools and the intergenerational trauma that still affects Indigenous Peoples and their communities.”

Miller added that the government has acknowledged its role in that trauma and they “are committed to making tangible differences across the country. We are listening to First Nations, Inuit and Metis leaders, and we know these approaches must be Indigenous-led, survivor-centric and culturally sensitive. We will continue to listen to Indigenous Peoples as they tell their stories and support them on their journey of healing, at their own pace, the best way they see fit. As a country, we will do better.”

$78.3 million has been already been delivered to Indigenous communities across the country to support 70 initiatives in research, knowledge gathering, commemoration, memorialization, and fieldwork investigation around the sites of former Residential Schools. In addition, the government recently announced a $122-million budget allocation over the next three years to the Residential School Missing Children’s _ Community Support Funding program for a total investment of $238.8 million. As far as mental-health initiatives go, the government invested $107.3 million in 2021-2022 through Indigenous Services Canada to support the expansion of trauma-informed cultural and emotional supports for Residential School survivors and others impacted by the legacy of Residential Schools.

Additionally, Budget 2022 proposes $227.6 million over two years, starting in 2022-23 to maintain trauma-informed, culturally appropriate, Indigenous-led services to help support those affected by intergenerational trauma

 Marc Lalonde  is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the  IORI:WASE. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. 


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