First Nations, Inuit and Red River Metis Council Formed to Support Indigenous-Led Searches For Burial Sites of Children Who Attended Residential Schools

March 23, 2022 – Indigenous Leadership, Government Representatives among Council Members: Lagimodiererelated background

A new council of representatives from key Indigenous governments and community organizations as well as officials from the provincial, federal and municipal governments, will provide guidance and advice on how best to support Indigenous-led searches for children who died attending residential schools, Indigenous Reconciliation and Northern Relations Minister Alan Lagimodiere announced today.

“Indigenous leaders, governments, organizations, communities, elders, knowledge keepers and, most importantly, survivors and families must lead the way as we implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and locate missing children who died attending residential schools,” said Lagimodiere. “This work is a difficult but necessary part of the healing journey for Indigenous communities and the council will provide crucial support and guidance to the searches for and commemorations of the children who did not return home.”

The council is co-chaired by the province and Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO), and has representation from Indigenous leadership organizations and governments, including the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Southern Chiefs’ Organization, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, Manitoba Métis Federation and the Manitoba Inuit Association.

“This critical work is just the latest example of how we must do all we possibly can to honour the children who attended Indian residential schools, their families and the thousands of children who never returned home,” said Grand Chief Jerry Daniels, SCO. “I am pleased to see our relatives and partners, including our treaty partners, coming together to ensure that as we acknowledge the genocidal history and legacy of the residential schools, we collectively do everything we can to locate those missing children, which is such  a vital component of the truth and reconciliation process.”

The council’s transformative work is led by First Nations, Inuit and the Red River Métis using a distinctions-based approach and is supported by municipal, provincial and federal governments. A process of ceremony will be followed to find a proper name for the council that guides its path forward, noted the minister.

The council’s preliminary discussions have identified five overarching principles that will guide its work:

  • the search for the missing children must be Indigenous-led and with support from municipal, provincial and federal governments;
  • families and survivors must be at the heart of all search efforts;
  • health supports are essential to the wellness and healing of families, survivors, communities and all of those who are engaged in this work;
  • the remains of the children who died while attending residential schools and their burial locations be protected at all times; and
  • commemorations are essential for healing, truth telling and education.

Representatives from the Regional Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program, which include Wa-Say Healing Centre, Anish Corporation, Cree Nation Tribal Council and Keewatin Tribal Council, are also participating at the invitation of the Indigenous member organizations and governments.

Other members represent the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, the Manitoba government and the City of Winnipeg.

Members shared the following priorities regarding efforts to find and commemorate the missing children including:

  • that searches are high quality and inclusive of families of missing children and survivors;
  • that trauma informed, culturally appropriate healing and mental wellness supports are widely accessible and available, particularly for survivors and families;
  • the recognition that efforts respect the cultural protocols, traditions and laws distinctive to each nation; and
  • that locations where children are buried are protected and accessible to families wanting to pay their respects.

The Manitoba government has committed $2.5 million to support the identification, investigation, protection and commemoration of the children who died attending residential schools. To date, the Government of Canada has provided $3.9 million to Indigenous communities within Manitoba to undertake this important work. As of December 2021, there are six First Nation communities in Manitoba actively carrying out searches at various locations using ground-penetrating radar technology.

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