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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Residential schools graves research: Uncertain future

Uncertain future for residential school graves research

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 5, 2008 | 5:41 PM CT

Milloy's working group wants to investigate the number of residential school students who are buried at cemeteries like this one in Fort Resolution, N.W.T.Milloy's working group wants to investigate the number of residential school students who are buried at cemeteries like this one in Fort Resolution, N.W.T. (CBC)

A research project on missing and deceased students from Canada's residential schools has an uncertain future, following the recent resignation of Justice Harry LaForme from the federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The project, which is being proposed by a working group of historians and representatives from aboriginal organizations, churches and government, aims to examine how many children died, went missing, or are buried in unmarked graves at residential schools across the country from the late 1800s through much of the 1900s.

CBC News has learned that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission approved the project before LaForme quit as the commission's chairman in October, but it did not allocate any funds or approve a budget to start the work.

With the commission's work now stalled as a result of LaForme's resignation, it remains to be seen if and when the group's research can begin.

That research requires an extensive examination of all existing records from churches and government, as well as information provided by former students and staff.

Historian John Milloy, who is part of the working group, estimates they need to obtain and pore over 750 metres of paperwork from 60 archival sites across Canada.

"We know those files are incomplete, so we're not going to have a complete list of all the children ... that died," Milloy said in an interview.

"But we will have, with 18 months, two years, five years, we'll have the most complete list you can have."

The research is likely to cost millions of dollars and the revived commission will need to decide whether to spend that kind of money.

Milloy said the working group wants to answer a number of questions: "Firstly, identify the extent, if that's possible, all the children who died in residential schools and the cause of death," he said.

He added the group also wants to "try to identify all the children that went missing, and finally to investigate the number and nature of the graveyards across the country and who's buried in them."

Milloy added that the project would also investigate if residential school staff followed their own regulations when it came to the care of students.

About 150,000 aboriginal children attended Canada's 130 residential schools from the late 1800s to 1996, when the last school closed. About 80,000 former students are still alive, but an estimated five or six die every day.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was established in June, is not charged with determining innocence or guilt, but with creating a historical account of the residential schools, helping people to heal and encouraging reconciliation.

Story comments (1)
grannysaga wrote:Posted 2008/11/06at 12:08 AM ET "The research is likely to cost millions of dollars and the revived commission will need to decide whether to spend that kind of money." John Milloy may think this investigation is 'optional', but the International Director overseeing the process has been very clear that it must occur. from the Globe and Mail: "Thanks to the Canadian commission, federal researchers are working to identify the thousands of aboriginal children who vanished from the residential schools; many of the children are thought to be in the anonymous graves at the school sites. It is their memory that Canada should honour as it presses forward with its historic truth commission, and works to achieve a healthier, more united country." (emphasis added) (Eduardo Gonzalez is deputy director of the Americas program at the International Center for Transitional Justice and a former staff member of the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission.) In addition, those of us who have worked for years to bring this issue to the attention of the public and international authorities have reason not to trust John Milloy's intentions: In his report to the Royal Commission, without any such investigation, he firmly concluded that the abuse and deaths of children in Canada's 'Indian' Residential Schools were due to negligence and lack of funding, but were not 'intentional'.
Such conclusions are not defensible since no investigation had occurred. Milloy had access to information that over half of the children were dying in the schools for over 40 years, but still chose to say government 'intentions were good', a premature and faulty conclusion.
The CBC would be wise to contact Eduardo Gonzalez of the International Centre for Transitional Justice, overseeing Canada's 'Truth' Commission, for his views on this topic, already published in the Globe and Mail. And see: The enrolment game: Someone is lying!

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My Canada includes rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Two Row Wampum Treaty

Two Row Wampum Treaty
"It is said that, each nation shall stay in their own vessels, and travel the river side by side. Further, it is said, that neither nation will try to steer the vessel of the other." This is a treaty among Indigenous Nations, and with Canada. This is the true nature of our relationships with Indigenous Nations of 'Kanata'.