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Alberta commits $8 M to research undocumented residential school deaths

·2 min read

Volume 4 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report spends just under 140 pages detailing research on missing children and unmarked burials at residential schools in Canada.

Published in 2014, the report calls for the federal government to allocate sufficient resources to develop and maintain a death registry as well as research unmarked burial sites. With the discovery of the remains of 215 children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School last month, the federal government and several provincial governments have finally committed to help with such research.

Announced funding includes $27.1 million from the Canadian government, $10 million from the Government of Ontario, $2.5 million from Manitoba, and, as of today, $8 million from the Government of Alberta.

“I don’t believe I’m overstating it when I say Canadians and Albertans are deeply shaken by this horrifying revelation [at Kamloops],” said Minister of Indigenous Relations Rick Wilson. “In this country we’ve skirted the truth, even though residential survivors and elders have been telling us for years that many children did not find their way home.”

“Facing it is the start of reconciliation with our indigenous people,” he continued. “Truth must proceed reconciliation, and that is why we’re here today.”

The $8 million will be made available as grant funding to support efforts of First Nations and Métis communities to research and commemorate those who died at residential schools. Alberta operated the most residential schools in Canada, with 25 schools open at various times between 1872 and 1975.

“We have a moral obligation to find them, to recover their memory and honour those sites and their lives,” said Premier Jason Kenney. “We hope that this action will be one small evidence of the desire of Albertans to pursue the path of reconciliation and to honour those children whose lives were lost.”

The premier also committed to “leaving no stone unturned” in the provincial coroner archive to determine what, if any, records exist from residential schools. Making such records available is another call to action laid out by the TRC report in Volume 4.

The Alberta Residential Schools Community Research Grant is now open for applications from communities and organizations until Jan. 15, 2022.

Applicants will have total control over what research the funding will help complete, such as completing archeological surveys and ground-penetrating radar studies, gathering oral histories and knowledge from elders, or erecting permanent monuments to honour the children who suffered and died.

Funding will be capped at $150,000 per individual community and organization, though no cap will apply for joint submissions. There is no requirement for the applicant to contribute financially to the project costs.

Application forms and additional information on the research grant is available online at bit.ly/AB_RSCRG.

Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze

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