Ontario is committing $10 million to identify burial sites at former residential schools across the province.
Premier Doug Ford and Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford made the announcement in Kenora on Tuesday, alongside Indigenous leaders. The funding is being pledged over three years to help identity, investigate, and commemorate burial sites.
“It’s important for all Ontarians to be aware of the dark history and painful legacy of the Indian residential school system,” said Ford.
The announcement comes following the discovery of unmarked children’s graves at a former residential school site in Kamloops, B.C.
“Like all Ontarians, I was heartbroken by the news of a burial site containing the remains of 215 Indigenous children at the former Indian residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia,” said Ford.
“That is why our government is partnering with Indigenous communities to address the loss of generations who are no longer with us, and the continued loss experienced by residential school survivors and their families. As we advance meaningful reconciliation, it is important that all of us continue to deepen our collective understanding of the legacy of the Indian Residential School system.”
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada says there were 18 Indian Residential Schools in Ontario and 426 children are believed to have died. Rickford said Tuesday the commission has already identified and located 12 sites in the province.
“We know that the tragic findings at a former Indian Residential School site in British Columbia are sadly not an anomaly,” said Rickford.
“Indigenous leaders and Ontarians are looking to governments to commit to the work of investigating Indigenous Residential School burial sites on a priority basis and our government is taking action to support this process through to completion.”
The province will collaborate with Indigenous leaders to develop a process that will help identify the sites and a number of experts and historians will be identified to help lead the research and investigation.
The province says the funding will also ensure that mental health support is available for Indian Residential School survivors, their families and Indigenous communities.
There were growing calls for more searches at former residential schools across the country following the heartbreaking discovery in Kamloops.
Indigenous leaders say it is crucial not only to confirm the identities of the 215 children found on the grounds of an old residential school in Kamloops but also to examine every single former residential school site in Canada.