First Nations, Métis and Northern Affairs Minister Don McMorris announced $2 million in provincial funding will be provided to the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) to support research into undocumented deaths and burials on formerly federally operated residential school locations in the province.
The minister also called on the federal government to match this investment.
“In the wake of last month’s discovery at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, it is clear that research and exploration into undocumented deaths and burials must be carried out in Saskatchewan,” said McMorris.
“The $2 million announced today by the province of Saskatchewan will help ensure this work can begin, and help bring peace to those who suffered under the residential school system, and peace of mind to those who continue to suffer from its effects. I strongly call upon the federal government to immediately match these funds and help carry out this vitally important work in the province of Saskatchewan.”
The FSIN has already identified the former residential schools of Muskowekwan, Onion Lake St. Anthony's, Beauval, Guy Hill, Lebret and Sturgeon Landing as possible sites for research. However, it is believed that the list of locations First Nations would like to investigate could increase. The funding announced today will be used to support the research into these, and future sites.
Currently, the FSIN is putting together their approach to support First Nations and help carry out this research, as many Indigenous communities across the province have already announced their intention to carry out investigations into former school sites in their communities.
"The Province of Saskatchewan has committed $2 million to begin the work and research necessary to bring these little lost souls some peace," said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron. "It’s a good start but much more will need to be done as Saskatchewan had one of the highest numbers of residential schools in the country. This work will take years to complete and proper ceremony and protocol must be followed at every site. Elders, knowledge keepers, survivors, their descendants, and First Nations communities must be a part of this processes every step of the way. This work is vital for many of these survivors who have been sharing their stories for years. We must come together to help them heal."
In May, the Government of Saskatchewan joined with the FSIN demanding the federal government take immediate action on this issue.
The residential school system operated in Canada for more than a century. The federal government reports that 150,000 Indigenous children were removed and separated from their families and communities to attend these schools. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimates that approximately 20 federal residential schools operated in Saskatchewan from the 1880s to the 1990s.