In August 2021, the federal government said it would create a national advisory committee to advise Indigenous communities and the government about identifying unmarked graves.
The Call to Action:
We call upon the federal government to work with provincial, territorial and municipal governments, churches, Aboriginal communities, former residential school students, and current landowners to develop and implement strategies and procedures for the ongoing identification, documentation, maintenance, commemoration and protection of residential school cemeteries or other sites at which residential school children were buried.
This is to include the provision of appropriate memorial ceremonies and commemorative markers to honour the deceased children.
In June 2022, the federal government appointed Kimberly Murray as a special interlocutor to co-ordinate the government’s response to unmarked graves at former residential school sites for a two-year term.
In the 2019 budget, the federal government committed $33.8 million over three years, starting in 2019–20, to maintain the National Residential School Student Death Register, establish and maintain an online registry of residential school cemeteries and provide opportunities for commemoration.
In June 2021, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said $27 million of that funding was still available to help Indigenous communities find and commemorate lost children.
In August 2021, Bennett said an additional $83 million will be added to the program to fund searches of burial sites and commemorate the children who died at residential schools. She also said the government would create a national advisory committee — made up of experts in archeology, forensics, pathology and mental health — to advise Indigenous communities and the government about finding and identifying unmarked graves.
The Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs announced in June 2021 that it had launched a study to take a look at calls to action 72 to 76, amid concerns over delays in implementing some of them.
Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario have also committed funds to investigate residential school burial sites in those provinces.
In March 2017, in a formal response to the TRC Calls to Action, the government of the Northwest Territories stated it “is willing to work with Aboriginal partners and the federal government to create a registry and maps of burial locations.”
In July 2017, the Province of Saskatchewan designated a residential school cemetery as a provincial heritage site. This means the cemetery will be preserved and the burial sites protected.
In a May 2016 statement from the Province of Ontario, the province committed to “work with the federal government and Indigenous communities to find cemeteries and burial sites on residential school properties.”
In January 2016, the Yukon government committed to “continue to respond to requests from the federal government to support identification and documentation of burial sites.”
In 2011, in Alberta, volunteers from Indigenous communities, the United Church of Canada and Sunnybrook United Church founded the Remembering the Children Society to preserve the cemetery of the Red Deer Industrial School. The society has since expanded throughout the province, and works to preserve other cemeteries of Indian Residential Schools in Alberta. Its efforts include identifying previously unmarked graves and holding commemoration ceremonies.
The society also has support from the Anglican Church of Canada. It does not receive federal funding.