The Ontario government has committed to working with Indigenous communities to help support the identification, investigation, protection and commemoration of Indian Residential School burial sites across the province.
At a virtual announcement yesterday, Premier Ford pledged $10 million over the next three years to support the necessary work which will be guided by Indigenous elders, residential school survivors and community leaders.
"Our government is partnering with Indigenous communities to address the loss of generations who are no longer with us, and the continued loss experienced by residential school survivors and their families. As we advance meaningful reconciliation, it is important that all of us continue to deepen our collective understanding of the legacy of the Indian Residential School system,” said the Premier.
The funding will also ensure that culturally appropriate, trauma-informed mental health supports are available for Indian Residential School survivors, their families and Indigenous communities.
"Preliminary work done here in Ontario by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has already identified 12 locations of unmarked burial sites in Ontario with varying levels of certainty and detail," said Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford.
Rickford noted that the project is not starting from scratch and will be informed by existing provincial records and survivor testimony from previous inquires. This will help inform the next steps and minimize the re-traumatization of survivors.
The province will identify technical experts, including archaeologists, forensic specialists and historians, available to lead the related research, analysis and technical field work required and ensure it is conducted to the highest standard. Indigenous communities will have the option to work in conjunction with Ontario specialists.
"We anticipate that many will want this process to move as quickly as possible. However, we must also ensure that this process is respectful and thorough," said MPP Rickford.
Across Canada, over 150,000 Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and communities and sent to Indian Residential Schools between 1870 and 1996. According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, there were 18 Indian Residential Schools in Ontario; the last of these closed in 1991, with some sites since repurposed, abandoned or destroyed.