'Help bring peace': Sask. government pledges $2M to help search for residential school burial sites
SASKATOON -- The search for unmarked burial sites at residential schools is getting support from the Saskatchewan government.
The province announced Friday it will spend $2 million to “support research into undocumented deaths” at residential school sites.
The push to examine Canada’s residential school sites follows the discovery of the remains of 215 children at a former residential school in Kamloops.
“Part of this collective grief we feel as a society, is that there are so many questions that remain unanswered, and so many records and details that have been lost about these children who attended the schools,” said First Nations, Metis and Northern Affairs Minister Don McMorris during a virtual news conference Friday afternoon.
McMorris called on the federal government to match or surpass the funding commitment.
"It will be a challenging and emotional road for all of us, but one we must walk together because it's the right thing to do," McMorris said.
Earlier this month, the federal government announced $27 million in funding would be made available to help examine residential school sites across Canada.
The provincial funding will be provided directly to the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) to help with its search efforts.
The FSIN has already outlined at least six residential school sites in Saskatchewan to search, a number the organization expects to grow.
"I want to tell each and every one of you a story of those poor little ones that we will never find. Those ones will have escaped those institutions for many, many decades and were lost in the bush, in the country and perished due to the elements," FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said during the news conference.
"We will never find those ones, but we will find some of them," Cameron said.
Rather than just purely searching the ground, Cameron said much of the money would go towards gathering information about the schools from survivors to help find out "where to start."
"During this whole journey with our survivors and the descendants, you know, their input, their guidance has gone to drive this whole process," Cameron said.
Cameron said ceremonies will also be a critical part of the process and described the former schools are "sacred."
"Some of the expectations would be that they be turned into sacred sites, Because that's what they are. These lands are sacred sites, " Cameron said.
The FSIN is still developing its plan to help Indigenous communities carry out the searches.
Cameron said he expects the process of conducting the searches and providing closure could take years.
About 150,000 Indigenous children were separated from their families and forced to attended boarding schools, according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
The TRC estimates one in every 50 of the students died.