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Catholic order that staffed B.C. residential schools signs agreement on record sharing

The Royal B.C. Museum and an order of Catholic nuns who staffed the Kamloops Indian Residential School have signed an agreement on access to archival records.

Under the memorandum of understanding announced Wednesday, the Sisters of St. Ann (SSA) will provide the museum and the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at UBC with “enhanced access” to the order’s “private archival records.”

Read more: U.S. to investigate Indigenous boarding school burial sites after Canada’s discovery

In a media release, the groups said the agreement will prioritize making records regarding residential schools and the SSA’s involvement at them available to Indigenous communities, including in digital formats.

“All archives from organizations that were involved with residential schools can play a role in the process of truth-finding and reconciliation,” said Dr. Daniel Muzyka, board chair and acting CEO of the Royal BC Museum.

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“Expediting access to the SSA records to Indigenous communities is a positive step along this path.”

Click to play video: 'The search for unmarked graves at residential school sites' The search for unmarked graves at residential school sites
The search for unmarked graves at residential school sites – Jun 15, 2021

“We affirm our commitment to collaborate in finding the truth and will assist in the process in whatever way we can,” said Sister Marie Zarowny, president and board chair of The Sisters of St. Ann.

“It is of the utmost importance to us to contribute, in any way possible, to transparency and accessibility, and participate in activities that can lead to healing and reconciliation.”

According to the Sisters of St. Ann’s website, its members taught at the Kamloops residential school form 1890 to 1970, and were involved in three other residential schools.

They add that the MOU will ensure the records are available to the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc.

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There has been growing pressure on Catholic organizations who operated and staffed Canada’s residential schools to release long-withheld records from the facilities.

Read more: ‘They were monsters that did this’: Kamloops residential school survivor speaks out

That pressure has mounted since the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc announced the discovery of the remains of 215 children in unmarked graves at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

The museum and the SSA said the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre has been included as a neutral third party, which will work with staff from the BC Archives to process and audit the records in July.

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation will also be involved to help ensure transparency in the process, they said.

The MOU also pledges to try and speed up the complete transfer of the SSA archives to the BC Archives by 2025, ahead of a previous target of 2027.

With files from the Canadian Press

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