News Releases

News Release - Manitoba

June 21, 2021

Province Commits $2.5 Million to Help Support Commemoration and Protection of Indigenous Residential School Burial Sites

Working Collaboratively with Indigenous Partners to Seek Reconciliation and Healing: Premier and Clarke

The Manitoba government is committing $2.5 million to begin the work of supporting the identification, investigation, protection and commemoration of Indian Residential School burial sites across the province, Premier Brian Pallister and Indigenous and Northern Relations Minister Eileen Clarke announced today.

“The horrifying discovery of the burial site of 215 Indigenous children at the former Indian Residential School in Kamloops and the 104 unmarked graves associated with the former Brandon Residential School are stark reminders of the tragedy and lasting impacts of Canada’s residential school system, and why we must do more to mark this passage in our country’s history,” said Pallister. “This tragedy is deeply felt in Manitoba and our government is committed to working collaboratively and respectfully with Indigenous leadership, Elders, Knowledge Keepers and community members as we seek reconciliation, healing and meaningful ways to honour the lives lost and support the survivors and their families in our province.”

The province will meet with Indigenous leadership, Elders, and Knowledge Keepers to determine how best to use this funding to identify, document, protect and commemorate the burial grounds and unmarked graves of missing children. Beyond this funding, the province will consider additional initiatives, led by Indigenous and Northern Relations with the support of other provincial departments as needed, to support communities through this process.

“Our government is committed to working collaboratively with residential school survivors, families, Indigenous leadership and communities, Elders and Knowledge Keepers and the federal government to support this very important and necessary process of truth-telling and healing that will help us move towards reconciling these historic wrongs,” said Clarke. “Manitoba wishes to do its share in recognizing, reconciling and healing. But our process must be and will be led by Indigenous peoples, especially survivors, families, Knowledge Keepers and Elders.”

“The AMC is pleased that the province has dedicated resources and is agreeing to work with First Nations to deal with this tragedy,” said Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) Grand Chief Arlen Dumas. “In doing so, we need to ensure that the province follows the direction of First Nations in order to be respectful and successful. Similar to the massive success of the First Nation Pandemic Response Coordination Team throughout this pandemic, this endeavor should also be First Nation led. Our citizens are knowledgeable and can provide the right guidance to complete this work with partner organizations in a respectful and culturally appropriate way. While this amount is an initial start to begin the work, it will certainly take far more of a commitment and a collaborative long-term relationship with our governmental partners at all levels to step up and engage in this work. As always, the AMC stands at the ready to work with all levels of government in a respectful and meaningful way as we rechart and redirect Manitoba and Canada’s road to reconciliation.”

“The last few weeks have been a difficult time for survivors of residential schools, as well as their descendants, as we are triggered by the discovery of unmarked graves in Kamloops and also right here in Brandon, Manitoba,” said Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimanakak (MKO) Grand Chief Garrison Settee. “First Nations children in Northern Manitoba were often forcibly removed from their homes to attend residential schools in various locations, many of them never to return home again to their loving families. Today’s announcement is an important one as it signals that Manitoba is willing to work with First Nations in taking the next steps to identify and locate our missing children. It is essential this process is led by Indigenous people and communities as we work to heal from the ongoing legacy of residential schools. MKO is very much a willing partner and looks forward to working in a collaborative way with the province on this issue.”

“On the heels of devastating news regarding the discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, it behooves us all to remain steadfast on surrounding ourselves with government allies who are committed to reconciliation in action with Inuit, First Nations and Métis in Canada,” said Rachel Dutton, executive director, Manitoba Inuit Association. “We are pleased to strengthen the relationship and commitment to Inuit by the Government of Manitoba, whose outreach to Inuit is critical during an incredibly challenging time of re-traumatization of Inuit survivors of residential schools and the legacy that is the burden lived by their families and communities. We must be the voices for those whose own voices were taken away.”

Across Canada, more than 150,000 Indigenous children were removed from their families and sent to Indian Residential Schools between 1831 and 1996. Many died from contagious diseases, malnutrition, abuse, industrial accidents or while running away. While inconclusive records make it difficult to determine how many children attended these schools in Manitoba, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) estimated at least 338 children died attending Indian Residential Schools in Manitoba. However, the identification of 104 unmarked graves at the Brandon Residential School demonstrates there are likely more.

First Nation, Métis and Inuit children would have attended at least one of the 17 Indian Residential Schools located across Manitoba, with 14 of these officially recognized by the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement. There were also 114 day schools in operation across the province. Further research is needed to identify the locations of any unmarked burial grounds associated with the schools.

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