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e-3672 (Indigenous affairs)

E-petition
Initiated by RICK JOE from Chilliwack, British Columbia

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

Whereas:
  • Indigenous Peoples across Canada are mourning the discovery of thousands of unmarked graves of Indigenous children at the sites of the former Kamloops, Kootenay, Kuper Island, Brandon Cowessess and Marieval Indian Residential Schools;
  • Indigenous communities believe that many children who never returned home from residential schools are buried on the former properties, which this discovery further solidifies and documents;
  • Indigenous leaders believe that further unmarked graves exist, which can no longer be ignored;
  • The residential school system is not only a dark chapter in Canadian history, but it continues to have repercussions on its victims, their descendants, and on society as a whole; and
  • If only 1 out of 139 former residential school properties contained over 751 bodies, we can only begin to imagine how many thousands of Indigenous children are buried throughout all of Canada, and every child matters.
We, the undersigned, residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to:
1. Pay for the cost of ground-penetrating radar to investigate all former residential school properties, with the expectation that additional Indigenous children in unmarked graves may be properly identified and laid to rest;
2. Release all documents related to deaths and burial grounds at all residential schools, and encourage the churches and other levels of governments to do the same;
3. Secure the grounds of all residential schools, until proper searches for burial sites can be conducted; and
4. Empower Indigenous communities to lead these efforts and provide support that it is meaningful and ongoing, which includes training and education to lead the efforts until all the children are properly taken care of.

Response by the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): JAIME BATTISTE

Budget 2022 allocated an additional $122 million over the next three years to the Residential School Missing Children’s – Community Support Funding initiative, bringing the Government of Canada's total investment to $238.8 million to date to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action 72 to 76 on residential schools missing children and burial information. As of July 15, 2022, 84 funding agreements have been put in place with Indigenous communities and organizations resulting in $89.9 million in funding to support community-led processes to research and locate burial sites as well as to commemorate and memorialize the children who died at residential schools. Of the 84 funding agreements, 44 agreements include the use of ground-penetrating radar. These projects are community-led initiatives and activities are selected by the organizing community in consultation with other impacted communities

(https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/1622742779529/1628608766235).

In January 2022, the department signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation outlining how and when Canada will share historical documents related to residential schools. This co-developed approach is ensuring an efficient and secure transmission of documents while protecting and respecting Survivors' wishes, legislation, court orders, settlement agreements, and ongoing litigation processes. Since the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement, the department has shared Residential School narratives not previously in the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation’s collection. Departmental officials are now working with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation on the next category of information to be transmitted, more than one million documents, that will be converted to a more-readable format. The department is also working closely with various church entities and third party archives to facilitate the sharing of their collections to the fullest extent, and work is underway to create a project team and committee focused on the departmental document review, as announced on December 10, 2021. As well, and out of an abundance of caution, on April 4, 2022, the Minister issued the “Directive to preserve all information related to historical harms committed against Indigenous children” to ensure the department retains all Indian residential schools-related information. Further, the department is leading the development of options for a federal whole-of-government process to develop an approach for the identification and management of the disclosure of Indian residential schools-related documents to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. Providing access to Indian residential schools-related records is an important step in bringing closure to the Survivors, families, and communities who need it most. Collaborative, multi-department initiatives will provide increased transparency and accessibility to historical records. 

Canada has, upon request, provided funding so Indigenous communities are able to secure the locations of marked and unmarked burials while field investigations are underway.

The Residential School Missing Children’s – Community Support Funding initiative is dedicated to: locating, documenting, maintaining and commemorating burial sites associated with former residential schools; and, responding to family wishes to commemorate or memorialize their losses and the children's final resting places. This initiative supports Indigenous-led, Survivor-centric, and culturally-sensitive initiatives and investments to help Indigenous communities respond to and heal from the ongoing impacts of residential schools. Canada respects and understands Indigenous leaders and communities know best what they need to support Survivors, families and communities in their healing journey. When communities are ready to move forward, Canada will be there to support them.

In addition, on July 20, 2022,  Minister Miller and Stephanie Scott, Executive Director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, announced the establishment of the National Advisory Committee on Residential Schools Missing Children and Unmarked Burials to ensure Indigenous communities have access to independent, trusted and expert information in their efforts to identify, locate, and commemorate their missing children.

The members of the National Advisory Committee on Missing Children and Unmarked Burials are:

o        Elder Madeline Basile (Atikamekw)

o        Elder Harley Crowshoe (Blackfoot)

o        Elder Verna DeMontigny (Red River Métis)

o        Crystal Fraser (Gwichyà Gwich'in)

o        Raymond Frogner (Cree)

o        Rebekah Jacques (Métis)

o        Andrew Martindale

o        Brenda Reynolds (Saulteaux)

o        Kisha Supernant (Métis/Papaschase)

o        Kona Williams (Cree and Mohawk)

The members of the Circle of Survivors are:

o        Larry Ahenakew, Métis, Île-à-la-Crosse, SK

o        Jack Anawak, Inuit, Iqaluit, NU

o        Jacquie Bouvier, Métis, SK

o        Terri Brown, Tahltan Nation, BC

o        Lillian Elias, Inuvialuit, Mackenzie Delta, NT

o        Romeo Saganash, Cree First Nation of Waswanipi, QC

The Government of Canada and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation will support the National Advisory Committee on Residential Schools Missing Children and Unmarked Burials as co-administrators.

Open for signature
December 7, 2021, at 11:01 a.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
April 6, 2022, at 11:01 a.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Mark Strahl (Chilliwack—Hope)
June 15, 2022 (Petition No. 441-00591)
Government response tabled
August 17, 2022
Photo - Mark Strahl
Chilliwack—Hope
Conservative Caucus
British Columbia
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