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B.C. provides funding to First Nation communities for residential school searches

Last Updated Jul 20, 2021 at 5:30 pm PDT

Several pairs of shoes sits on the steps of City hall in Kingston, Ontario on Tuesday June 1, 2021. The shoes represent the 215 Indigenous children whose remains was found on the grounds of a former residential school near Kamloops, British Columbia THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Lars Hagberg

B.C. will fast track funding for those First Nations overseeing former residential schools sites in the province

B.C. set up a $12-million fund last month to support work at the sites where the remains of children may be found

It also named two First Nations liaisons to help communities navigate the work

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available for anyone affected by residential schools. You can call 1-866-925-4419 24 hours a day to access emotional support and services.

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — In part of its vow to support Indigenous communities, the B.C. government has announced the $12 million it allocated will go to funding for First Nations investigating former residential school sites.

Murray Rankin, the minister of Indigenous relations and reconciliation, says each community can receive up to $475,000 for every site.

“We’ve been asked as a government to listen, to learn and to act. We’re putting communities at the center and survivors at the center of our response to this issue as a province. We’re taking our direction from these communities as we move forward,” he said during a press conference Tuesday. “The province is ready to support the way forward that First Nations say are ready for their communities, guided by Elders and knowledge keepers in those communities.”

There are 18 former residential school sites and three former hospital sites in B.C. and Rankin says all of them will have access to funding “available for a range of activities work related to site searches, planning, technical work, archival research, engaging with elders knowledge keepers and survivors, engaging with other communities that have an interest in the site.”

He says no deadline is attached to the grants and the funding is from the $12 million the province announced last month for research at former residential school sites and mental health and cultural supports for Indigenous communities.

“Nations can use this funding to provide mental health and cultural supports acknowledging how emotionally triggering and distressing this work can be,” Rankin added.

The government also announced the appointment of Charlene Belleau and Lydia Hwitsum as First Nations liaisons to help communities as the search for remains continues.

Belleau said she wants to find the remains of her great-grandfather, who took his own life while at St. Joseph’s residential school in Williams Lake.

“We’ve waited for this time for a long time … we told governments we told churches. Our children never came home. They never believed us. Now we know. Now you know. And we have the responsibility to work together to bring our loved ones home,” Belleau said.

In May, the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Nation announced that ground-penetrating radar had identified what are believed to be the remains of 215 children in unmarked graves.