Ontario announces $10M plan to investigate residential school burial sites
The government of Ontario has announced a $10 million plan to identify, investigate and commemorate unmarked burial sites of former residential schools in the province. This comes just two weeks after the remains of more than 200 children were discovered on the site of a former residential school in British Columbia.
The residential school system operated across most of Canada from the late 1800’s to 1996, when the last school was closed. The schools were funded by the Canadian government and run by churches, Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian and United.
The goal was to assimilate Native children into white society. Those children were torn from their families and communities and forced to attend the schools.
Thousands were physically, sexually and emotionally abused. Hundreds died of neglect and abuse.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the $10 million will go toward a three-year action plan to identify unmarked burial sites at former residential schools in the province.
"This is a moment to recognize the painful legacy of Canada’s residential school system and of the damaging lasting effect it has had on survivors and indigenous communities," Ford said.
There were 18 residential schools in Ontario. Ford said the work to uncover unmarked burial sites will be done with Indigenous leaders, as well as archaeologists and forensic specialists.
"We know that these are reopening old wounds, some that have never healed," said Greg Rickford, Ontario’s Indigenous Affairs minister. "That’s why it’s critical that any search and recovery efforts are community-led, led by Indigenous people, and supported with respect for community protocols and the diversity of cultural practices."
At least 426 indigenous children are known to have died at Ontario schools. Native elders believe the numbers are far higher. It is not known how many disappeared.