residential school

Ontario is going to spend $10 million to look for residential school burial sites

The devastating discovery of the remains of 215 children at the Kamloops Indigenous Residential School in B.C. last month has renewed resounding calls to action as far as truth and reconciliation in Canada are concerned, including but not limited to further investigation of residential school properties.

Though the government has so far fulfilled only a meagre number of the demands in the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Report, there is some indication that it actually trying to listen.

While residents attended sit-ins to commemorate the victims and toppled statues of historical figures who had a hand in the school system's design, Ottawa established a holiday to mark the atrocities perpetrated by the nation's residential school system — and Ontario is now promising to dig up and search more sites.

The province is putting forth $10 million to help identify and investigate potential unmarked graves at its 18 former residential schools, and also to help honour victims and support their families and communities.

"We know that the tragic findings at a former Indian Residential School site in B.C. are sadly not an anomaly," Minister of Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford acknowledged in a press release on the subject on Tuesday.

"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."

First Nations leaders are of course being brought on for every step of the process, and will work with experts in archaeology, forensics, history and more throughout this careful work.

Mental health resources will also be made available to residents in the wake of any discoveries, which will be shared and memorialized if desired by the community to help bright light to our dark past.

"This announcement acknowledges the negative impacts these schools had, and continue to have, within our communities. Most importantly, it charts a course of action to begin to address them," the regional councillor of the Métis Nation of Ontario stated today.

"We appreciate this tangible action and will continue to work with Ontario and Canada to bring the closure that our communities deserve."

More than 150,000 Indigenous children were over decades forced into the institutions, which were notorious for all types of physical, sexual and psychological abuses along with the deliberate erasure of Indigenous culture in favour of Euro-centric, Christian ways of life.

As such, the tragic legacy of the system lives on, as much as some would prefer to shy away from its painful reality and overlook the role that some of our nation's figureheads had in it.

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