The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, issued the following statement to mark the 6th Anniversary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action:
“Six years ago, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) held its closing event in Ottawa and presented the executive summary of the findings contained in its multi-volume final report, including 94 “Calls to Action”. This roadmap guides the path of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
This anniversary comes as last week’s news of the shocking discovery of a mass grave in the area of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, located on the traditional territory of the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc people. This revelation is once again a reminder of the trauma families, Survivors, and communities are experiencing because of the lasting impacts of residential schools. This is tragically not an isolated case. The TRC estimated that more than 4,100 students died in Residential Schools across the country. There are other known cases of unmarked graves across the country, and many more will be located. This is the grim reality of Residential Schools.
The Government of Canada in 2016 made the commitment to fund the work of National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR). Budget 2019 committed to continue the work started by the TRC and to implement Calls to Action 74 to 76 (Missing Children and Burial Information) with $27 million in funding.
This funding is supporting the NCTR in establishing the registries for deaths, burials and cemeteries. This funding will also support Indigenous partners and communities in developing community plans, conducting research and gathering local knowledge, accessing professional archaeological investigation services to identify and delineate burial sites, and to memorialize, commemorate and return their loved ones’ remains home, as requested.
“We recognize that the acknowledgement of the sixth anniversary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action comes at a time that is difficult for many and that our efforts to honour victims and families may act as an unwelcome reminder to those who have suffered hardships through generations of government policies that were harmful to Indigenous peoples. We encourage all those who need some support at this time to reach out and know that support is always there for you through Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310 (toll-free) or the online chat at hopeforwellness.ca open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Also, for immediate assistance to those who may need it, the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419″ Government of Canada
Funding is available for a range of activities that could include school-specific research and knowledge gathering on the children who died and their burial places.
Through our engagements over the last year and especially over the last number of days, we have heard that communities from coast-to-coast-to-coast are seeking to lead this important and challenging work. We will be there with them.
As we reflect on this tragedy, we must acknowledge that this is not a historical event. There are parents who are still living who have lost children, maybe even amongst those found in Kamloops.
There are surviving brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, and other family members who will be wondering if their loved ones are among those who have been located.
This pain is being felt in many parts of this country—not only by survivors, but by other generations of Indigenous people whose family and community members never returned home and live every day the ongoing impacts of intergenerational trauma caused by Residential Schools.
Six years ago, the TRC charted a path forward for reconciliation for everyone in Canada. We have been making steady progress with 80 percent of the Calls to Action under federal or shared jurisdiction completed or well underway. We know we still have so much more to do to.
The important work on Calls to Action 74-76 is just the beginning and Canada remains committed to supporting survivors, their families, communities and all those impacted by the horrible legacy of Residential Schools. This just the first step in Canada fulfilling that commitment.
Reconciliation is about healing. Reconciliation requires acknowledging the truth. Reconciliation requires each of us to do our part to understand the pain and work in partnership with Indigenous peoples on the path forward.”