Alberta creates $8M fund to aid search for unmarked residential school graves
Alberta has created an $8 million fund to aid the search for unmarked graves and undocumented deaths linked to residential schools across the province.
"We hope this action will be one small evidence of the desire of Albertans to pursue the path of reconciliation and to honour those children whose lives were lost," Premier Jason Kenney said Wednesday.
Indigenous communities in Alberta can now apply online for the funding from the grant program. Communities or organizations can submit a research proposal for a single residential school site to receive a maximum of $150,000.
The premier said the money can be put towards whatever research is needed, including the use of ground-penetrating radar near suspected grave sites, as well as the creation or restoration of memorials.
"Alberta's government wants to do its part to help First Nations do that critical work."
Chief William Morin of the Enoch Cree First Nation welcomed the announcement.
"Those open wounds are very much open at this time," he said. "It's a great reconciliatory action."
"This is a significant start."
The province indicated its intention to find unmarked Indigenous graves last month, shortly after the discovery of the remains of 215 children at a mass grave near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
Of the 134 officially designated residential schools in Canada, at least 25 operated in Alberta between 1893 and 1996.
Kenney said Alberta was home to more residential schools than any other province.
"All or most of those sites must have graves close to them," he said.
Actions 74 and 94 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls on the federal government, church and Indigenous community leaders to work toward finding where children are buried, as well as responding to the wishes of properly commemorating the lives lost in the residential school system.
Contact the Indian Residential School Survivors Society toll-free 1 (800) 721-0066 or 24-hour Crisis Line 1 (866) 925-4419 if you require further emotional support or assistance.