Report on Indian School cemetery in Regina troubles TRC head
Cutting the grass once a year not enough, Sinclair says
Justice Murray Sinclair, the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, is asking leaders in Regina to do "the right thing" and find a way to commemorate the Regina Indian Industrial School.
The discovery of a grave site on the land, which is now in an area zoned for business use, has led to city officials recommending the site be simply tended to with a yearly grass cut.
According to a report by officials, the city should set maintenance standards for the site and then leave it up to the private owner to keep it "neat and tidy".
But Sinclair, in a letter to Regina Mayor Michael Fougere, said the recommendation falls short.
"We would expect that in the spirit of truth and reconciliation, the City of Regina and the Province of Saskatchewan would want to ensure that these cemeteries and children are appropriately remembered.
The Regina Industrial School was in operation between 1891 and 1910 and was run by the Presbyterian Church under contract with the federal Department of Indian Affairs. The grave site - west of the city - has not been used in over 100 years. It is believed the cemetery has well over 22 graves, including three graves for children of the first principal of the school, a Rev. J. A. McLeod.
Sinclair was especially disappointed that Regina was reluctant to spend money to do further research of the site and wanted others to undertake the work.
"Instead of viewing this as a potential financial, research and consultation burden, [Regina should] view this as an opportunity to pursue truth and reconciliation with some of your most important citizens, neighbours and partners."
Sinclair called it a "tragedy" that Regina believes it does not have the ability to look more closely at the site for its heritage value.
"If ever there was a time for the city to develop that expertise ... surely that time is now," he said.
A committee of city council decided Monday to hold off making a recommendation on the site.