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B.C. appoints liaisons to support First Nations with former residential school sites

Click to play video: 'B.C. government appoints liaisons to help First Nations access residential school funds' B.C. government appoints liaisons to help First Nations access residential school funds
The B.C. government has appointed two liaisons to help First Nations access money aimed at helping investigate and deal with remains found at residential schools. As Ted Chernecki reports, the announcement was highlighted by emotional comments by a First Nations cabinet minister – Jul 20, 2021

The British Columbia government has appointed two liaisons who will work with First Nations with former Indian residential schools and Indian hospital sites.

Charlene Belleau and Lydia Hwitsum will support caretaker communities and work to link those communities with provincial and federal agencies. There were 18 Indian residential schools and three Indian hospitals in B.C.

Click to play video: 'B.C. announces First Nations liaisons' B.C. announces First Nations liaisons
B.C. announces First Nations liaisons – Jul 22, 2021

Belleau is the former Chief of Esk’etemc First Nation and former chair of the First Nations Health Council.

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“Today, we stand with former students, survivors, intergenerational survivors and their families,” Belleau said in a statement. “We are ready to support communities as they do the difficult work of honouring the spirits of the children who never came home. I am pleased to take on this role and support leaders, former students of residential schools and their families in their journey to bring truth, justice and healing.”

Click to play video: 'Unmarked graves discovered near Cranbrook residential school site' Unmarked graves discovered near Cranbrook residential school site
Unmarked graves discovered near Cranbrook residential school site – Jun 30, 2021

Hwitsum is a citizen of the Cowichan Nation and the former chair of the First Nations Health Authority.

The province also said a $12-million fund to support work at former residential care sites is open for submissions.

Read more: Trudeau says he would support a criminal investigation into residential schools  

Each caretaker community can receive up to $475,000 to support efforts to identify, investigate, document, maintain, protect and/or commemorate sites where remains may be located, as well as to support the well-being of survivors and family members.

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“The province will fast-track the review of these requests to make sure communities are able to access these resources when they are ready to undertake work at sites,” the province said in a statement.

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.

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