EDMONTON – Minister of Indigenous Relations Rick Wilson issued the following statement on support for survivors and loved ones of the Indian residential school system:
“Residential schools operated between 1893 and 1996 across Canada. Of the 134 schools, at least 25 operated in Alberta. For generations, Indigenous parents had their children taken from them to attend schools away from their families, communities, languages and culture. For too many families, children never returned.
“The intergenerational trauma caused to students, families and communities sparked the need for a countrywide effort to document the history and legacy of the residential schools. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission released their report in 2015, and the work toward reconciliation continues.
“Action 74 of the 94 Truth and Reconciliation actions calls for the federal government to work with churches and Indigenous leaders to let families know where their children or relatives are buried and to respond to their wishes regarding commemoration of beloved family members.
“Alberta joins that effort. Today, I am announcing the Alberta government’s intention to fund research into the undocumented deaths and burials of hundreds of Indigenous children who did not make their way home. The details of that funding will be announced in the coming days.
“Finding their graves is a matter of reconciliation and another step toward closure for families. Many of the schools have been destroyed and while their general location is known, the exact coordinates are missing. It is also possible that children were buried in locations such as nearby churches.
“The discovery of 215 lost children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School site heightens the need to take action. Alberta’s government extends sincere condolences to the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and all of the families affected by this profound tragedy. They need real progress from governments, institutions and from every one of us toward real reconciliation.”