Province supports First Nations with residential school sites response

THE British Columbia government announced on Monday that it has allocated $12 million to support First Nations throughout B.C. with investigative work at former residential school sites, as well as cultural and wellness supports for communities and members experiencing trauma from residential school site findings.

“Finding evidence of a burial site for children who attended the former Kamloops residential school was a stark reminder of the atrocities of the Canadian residential school system and how those continue to be felt to this day,” said Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “Many other sites throughout the province and country are still the source of unanswered questions and terrible pain. It is imperative that we take our lead from First Nations as we move forward, and we will continue to act quickly and in a co-ordinated way to support their needs.”

The Province has been co-ordinating closely with Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, Indigenous Services Canada and the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) to support First Nation-led responses. This new provincial funding will support First Nations with community-led strategies to identify, investigate, document, maintain, protect and/or commemorate residential school sites where children’s remains may be located, as well as to provide community wellness, cultural and mental health supports.

Memorial on the steps of Vancouver Art Gallery at Robson Square for the 215 children whose remains were found at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
Photo: Rattan

The provincial and federal governments and the FNHA are working with a number of First Nations that have requested assistance to determine needs and next steps for searches at other sites, removing structures, providing resources for healing and identifying other supports. These include Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc and Daylu Dena Council.

“The provision of these funds for immediate use by First Nations in the aftermath of discoveries of remains at residential school sites is an important first step in supporting the resiliency and healing of B.C. First Nations people,” said Charlene Belleau, Chair, First Nations Health Council. “We acknowledge our B.C. government partners for this effort, as our communities honour the spirit of these lost children.”

In light of the pain that recent residential school findings are having on the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples, there is an identified need for mental, emotional and cultural supports for survivors, intergenerational survivors and communities as the most urgent priority.

“We are pleased to see the B.C. government’s commitment to supporting First Nations in this work,” said Richard Jock, CEO, FNHA. “Acknowledging trauma and the damaging and lasting impacts residential school have on First Nations people, their families and communities is a first step. The ongoing provision of culturally safe healing and wellness supports for B.C. First Nations must be communities-driven and Nation-based. This must be the primary focus going forward.”

The provincial and federal governments and the FNHA will work together to co-ordinate mental health and cultural supports for Indigenous peoples experiencing distress or trauma as a result of findings at residential schools. The new provincial funding will support healing for survivors and families in both Indigenous communities and urban areas.

More information on how First Nations can access the provincial funding for site investigation work and cultural and wellness supports will be shared in the coming days.

Support services for residential school survivors in B.C.:

* The KUU-US Crisis Line Society provides a 24-hour, provincewide Indigenous crisis line for Indigenous peoples in B.C.
Adults, call 250 723-4050. Children and youth, call 250 723-2040. Toll-free: 1 800 588-8717

* First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line for Indigenous people across Canada:
Phone toll-free 1 855 242-3310 or chat online: https://www.hopeforwellness.ca/

* The Métis Crisis Line for Métis people in B.C., available 24 hours a day at 1 833 MétisBC: 1 833 638-4722

* Tsow Tun Le Lum for Indigenous peoples in B.C., phone: 1 888 403-3123

* Indian Residential School Survivors Society, phone: 1 800 721-0066 or 604 985-4464

* 24-Hour National Crisis Line for residential school survivors and others affected: 1 866 925-4419

Quick Facts

* There were 18 residential schools that operated in B.C.

* The first one to open in 1863 was St. Mary’s in Mission, which was also the last to close in 1984 after 121 years in operation.

* In addition to residential schools, there were more than 100 day schools and three Indian hospitals in Prince Rupert, Nanaimo and Sardis.

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