Ottawa commits $321M for residential school searches and support services for survivors
Justice Minister David Lametti to appoint special interlocutor
The federal government is committing $321 million in new funding for programs to help Indigenous communities search burial sites at former residential schools and to support survivors and their communities.
Speaking to a virtual news conference Tuesday, Justice Minister David Lametti said he will appoint a special interlocutor to work with Indigenous communities and the government to propose changes to federal laws, policies and practices that are related to unmarked graves at residential schools.
He said Canada currently does not have the necessary legal tools needed to deal with the complex issues presented by the findings of unmarked graves.
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said $83 million will be added to an existing $27-million program to fund searches of burial sites and commemorate the children who died at residential schools.
She said the government will create a national advisory committee, made up of archeology, forensic, pathology, and mental health experts, to advise Indigenous communities and the government about work to find and identify the children.
WATCH Carolyn Bennett announces more funding for residential school searches
Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said the government will spend $107 million on programs to provide essential mental health, culture and emotional services to support healing from intergenerational trauma.
"Since late May, a number of Indigenous people have contacted our government to share that they are now reliving the experiences they have worked so hard to move on from, opening up old wounds they thought they had healed," said Miller.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald said at the virtual news conference that while the announcement was long overdue she welcomes the government's commitment to funding for Indigenous-led, survivor-centric efforts.
"We as First Nations have known the truth, we have shared this truth, we have fought for this truth to be heard," said Archibald.
"And there must be truth before reconciliation."
Canada will also provide $100.1 million over two years to support community plans to manage former residential school buildings — for demolition, rehabilitation or the construction of new facilities on reserve to house activities currently taking place in the buildings.
Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools, and those who are triggered by these reports.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for residential school survivors and others affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.
with files from Canadian Press