The former executive director of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has been selected to head up the investigation into the Mohawk Institute Residential School in Branford, Ont.
Kimberly R. Murray will be looking into any criminal activities that may have happened at one of Canada’s longest running residential schools through the creation of a “Survivors Secretariat.”
Six Nations elected band council has given a million dollars to start the investigation, which will run in conjunction with one launched by Six Nations police.
“I come to this new role with humility and enormous respect for survivors and the sacred work ahead, ” Murray said in a Six Nations release.
“The work of the TRC in relation to the missing children and unmarked burials was only a beginning. My commitment to the survivors and their families is that we will not stop until we find the truth about where the children are.”
The Mohawk Institute opened in 1828 and was relocated to Brantford in 1840 before being destroyed by two separate fires in 1858 and 1903. After the last rebuild, the federal government took responsibility for the school in 1945 before its closure in 1970 with some children still in the residence until 1971.
The centre’s records show that some 54 children died at the institute over its 142 years of operation.
Some of the grounds have also been searched through the years via infrastructure repairs but not all of the surrounding area.
In July, both the federal and Ontario governments jointly committed $9.4 million for another phase in the restoration of the residential school building. Ottawa is putting up the bulk of the money, with $7.6 million coming through its Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program and $1.8 million coming from Queens Park.
According to a Six Nations release on Thursday, the Survivors Secretariat will be coordinating the processes in the death investigation, gathering statements, historical research, supporting commemoration initiatives and coordinating with governments.
“From the very start it was recognized that the Secretariat needed to be apolitical and not under the Six Nations of the Grand River elected council,” Six Nations chief Mark Hill said in a release.
“Communication with intergenerational survivors and community is a critical component of this work and it’s important that politics not hinder the engagement that needs to take place.
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.