Canada’s Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller says Ottawa has reached an agreement with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to hand over thousands more records on residential schools that the federal government has been holding back.
The government says the agreement outlines how and when it will send the historical documents to the Winnipeg-based centre, which will, in turn, make them available to residential-school survivors and work to preserve them.
The agreement comes after Miller announced last month the government was reviewing the records in its possession to see what more it could release to help survivors.
He said at the time that it would begin by sending what are known as previously undisclosed “school narratives,” which are reports written by the government outlining key events at individual institutions.
Stephanie Scott, the centre’s executive director, said Ottawa’s transfer of these records will help piece together a more comprehensive picture of how the residential-school system operated.
Survivors and Indigenous leaders have long called on the federal government to release remaining records that it had refused to fully disclose, citing legal obligations it had to third parties, including Catholic entities that operated the federally funded institutions. Some of those entities are now defunct.
The demands grew louder last year after several First Nations announced ground-penetrating radar had located what are believed to be the remains of hundreds of children in unmarked graves on the sites of former residential schools.
At Thursday’s news conference, Scott said she hoped the federal government’s spring budget would include funding for the centre to get a new building and more resources to properly archive and share documents.
Miller said his government inked those promises into the Liberals’ 2021 election platform and it intends to honour them.