The leader of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation is calling on the federal government to immediately release all of the attendance records from the Kamloops B.c. Indian Residential School.
The request is one of the key parts of a report looking into the discovery of missing children in unmarked graves on the residential school property.
“The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc have the obligation to identify the graves found in our jurisdiction,” chief Rosanne Casimir said.
“The critical first step is full and complete disclosure of the records held by the federal government and the church. First the student attendance records. These primary documents currently within the custody of the government will be in critical importance to identify the lost children.”
In late May it was revealed that more than 200 children in unmarked graves had been discovered at the former residential school site.
It is still unclear exactly where the records are.
Some of the records are held in national archives, while others are held by other government bodies. The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the wing of the Catholic church operating the schools, also held some of the records.
The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc are also calling on the Oblates of Mary Immaculate to open up records immediately and fully.
“We are loathed to put the responsibility of those lost on the families who have been traumatized and re-traumatized,” Casimir said.
“We need supports to allow Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc to undertake the important work immediately and in the long term.”
The First Nation has worked to submit a budget to confirm and identify the missing children.
They are now calling on the federal and provincial governments to provide immediate and long-term funding as part of the identification process.
The British Columbia government has allocated $12 million to support First Nations across the province with investigative work at former residential school sites.
Part of the funding will go towards hiring experts for what they describe as critical work.
The funding will also go towards putting together oral tellings from survivors who have come forward to “express interest in sharing experiences and truths linked to deaths and unmarked graves and experiences.”
The oral testimony project will work to help those who are willing, to share testimonies. It will be overseen by Mary Ellen Turpel Lafond.