We call upon the parties engaged in the work of documenting, maintaining, commemorating, and protecting residential school cemeteries to adopt strategies in accordance with the following principles: 

  1. The Aboriginal community most affected shall lead the development of such strategies. 
  2. Information shall be sought from residential school Survivors and other Knowledge Keepers in the development of such strategies. 
  3. Aboriginal protocols shall be respected before any potentially invasive technical inspection and investigation of a cemetery site.

Indigenous Watchdog Status Update

Current StatusOct. 4, 2021IN PROGRESS
Previous StatusSept. 5, 2021IN PROGRESS

Why “In Progress”?

June 6, 2021: Toronto Star – The Missionary of Oblates of Mary Immaculate “says it will disclose all historical documents in its possession… They operated 48 schools in Canada, including the Marieval IRS and the Kamloops IRS…In the statement, the Oblates said the work is not complete because of complications with provincial and national privacy laws”.

The federal government released $27M in unused funding from a $33.8M budget allocations for Calls to Action # 72 and 73 in Budget 2019 to assist communities in the search for additional graves. There are no specifics identifying what the government is doing, with whom, by when or any details on how the $27M will be disbursed and applied.

On August 11, 2021, the federal government committed $321M in new funding for Indigenous communities and to appointing a special interlocutor to propose law and policy changes to better respond to the findings of unmarked graves at former residential school sites:

  • $83M added to the existing $27M program to fund searches of burial sites and commemorate the children who died at residential schools
  • $107M for programs to support healing from intergenerational trauma
  • $100M over two years to help Indigenous communities manage residential school buildings. To access this support, as well as support for the location, commemoration and memorialization of remains, communities can apply through the Residential Schools Missing Children – Community Support Funding Program
  • $9.6 million over three years in addition to the $13.4 million over five years already announced in Budget 2021 to ensure that the tragic history and ongoing legacy of residential schools is never forgotten. The funds will support initiatives that commemorate the history and ongoing legacy of residential schools, including events and activities marking the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation which will be observed for the first time this year on September 30, 2021

National Framework for Investigation and Protection of Burial Sites

June 2, 2021: National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) and the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre (IRSHDC) at UBC – NCTR and IRSHDC re calling on the federal government to work in collaboration with residential school Survivors and Indigenous governments to establish a national framework for investigation and protection of burial sites, consistent with the rights, laws, jurisdiction and protocols of the affected Nations.

  • The NCTR and IRSHDC emphasize that all potential residential school burial sites must be investigated and documented. Until such investigations can take place, these sites must be protected from erosion, destruction, manipulation or disturbance.
  • Hiding, damaging, interfering with or destroying the graves of residential school children must be recognized as a crime and prosecuted as such.
  • In addition, national standards must be put in place concerning use of investigative technologies such as ground scanning radar to respect the privacy of affected families and ensure that any evidence of crimes is not compromised.
  • A renewed commitment to ensure the affected Nations have all records related to missing and buried children and documentation where records are absent is urgently required.

Finally, all measures to investigate and protect burial sites must be consistent with the rights of Indigenous peoples in domestic and international law, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This includes respect for the decision-making authority of Indigenous governments and the right of Indigenous peoples to control their own lands and territories. The UN Declaration specifically calls on states to work with Indigenous peoples to develop appropriate mechanisms to protect and return human remains.

Federal Government National Advisory Committee and Special Interlocutor

August 11, 2011: Toronto Star – The federal government announced that they will create a national advisory committee, made up of archeology, forensic, pathology and mental health experts, to advise Indigenous communities and the government about the work to find and identify the children.

“They will evaluate federal laws, policies and practices surrounding unmarked and undocumented graves and burial sites at residential schools and set out responsibilities for their protection.” David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General said Canada currently does not have the necessary legal tools to deal with the complex issues presented by the finding of unmarked graves.

The Special Interlocutor’s mandate will evolve as discussions with Indigenous communities and leaders take place in the coming weeks. For now, it is expected that the Special Interlocutor will:

  • Identify needed measures and recommend a new federal legal framework that respects and preserves the dignity of burial sites of Indigenous peoples, in line with the wishes and traditions of communities and families. This work will apply Indigenous legal orders, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, and other international norms and instruments. Recommendations should identify core elements of a new framework that: 
  • preserves the dignity of Indigenous children and communities; and
  • sets out responsibilities for unmarked burial sites.
  • Facilitate dialogue with provinces and territories for matters arising within their jurisdiction and with other relevant institutions, including churches.
  • Establish a relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada as it relates to unmarked burial sites that: 
  • facilitates communications between Indigenous peoples and the Government;
  • is based on developing and strengthening trust;
  • uses engagement processes that are culturally-appropriate; and,
  • can serve as a model for future initiatives or lead to recommendations for a new approach to engagement on issues of common concern to the Government and Indigenous peoples.

Official Federal Government Response: “Modified” June 11, 2021 – but nothing changed from Sept. 5, 2019

Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada has begun discussions with various partners, internal and external to the federal government, towards collaborating on an engagement strategy to gain a better understanding of the range of Indigenous family and community needs and interests and about how best to move forward in a comprehensive manner on all of the calls to actions regarding children who died or went missing while attending Indian residential schools (Calls to Action 72 to 76).