The British Columbia government has allocated $12 million to support First Nations across the province with investigative work at former residential school sites.
The financial support comes after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation in Kamloops announced in May that ground-penetrating radar uncovered the remains of 215 children who were students of the Kamloops Indian Residential School.
The financial support also includes cultural and wellness supports for communities and members experiencing trauma from residential school site findings.
“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,” Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Murray Rankin said.
“Many other sites throughout the province and country are still the source of unanswered questions and terrible pain. It is imperative that we take our lead from First Nations as we move forward, and we will continue to act quickly and in a co-ordinated way to support their needs.”
The provincial and federal governments and the First Nations Health Authority are working with a number of First Nations that have requested assistance to determine needs and next steps for searches at other sites, removing structures, providing resources for healing and identifying other supports.
These include Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc and Daylu Dena Council.
This new provincial funding will support First Nations with community-led strategies to identify, investigate, document, maintain, protect and/or commemorate residential school sites where children’s remains may be located, as well as to provide community wellness, cultural and mental health supports.
“The provision of these funds for immediate use by First Nations in the aftermath of discoveries of remains at residential school sites is an important first step in supporting the resiliency and healing of B.C. First Nations people,” First Nations Health Council chair Charlene Belleau said.
“We acknowledge our B.C. government partners for this effort, as our communities honour the spirit of these lost children.”
Indigenous communities have asked for support following the impact of the recent residential school findings on the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples.
The provincial and federal governments and the First Nations Health Authority will work together to co-ordinate mental health and cultural supports for Indigenous people experiencing distress or trauma as a result of findings at residential schools.
The new provincial funding will support healing for survivors and families in both Indigenous communities and urban areas.
“We are pleased to see the B.C. government’s commitment to supporting First Nations in this work,” health authority CEO Richard Jock said.
“Acknowledging trauma and the damaging and lasting impacts residential school have on First Nations people, their families and communities is a first step. The ongoing provision of culturally safe healing and wellness supports for B.C. First Nations must be communities-driven and Nation-based. This must be the primary focus going forward.”
The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419) is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience.