Boarders’ death certificates to be shared with the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation
WARNING: This story contains disturbing details.
A new intelligence-sharing agreement with Manitoba will help uncover what happened to children who went to boarding schools and ended up in unmarked graves, Indigenous groups say.
Stephanie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation, called it “an important contribution to all ongoing efforts to find all of our children.”
“The families and communities have a right to know about the children who have not returned home from school and to know where their little ones are buried,” she said Monday morning at a signing event in the rotunda of the Parliament building in downtown Winnipeg.
A new information-sharing agreement with the provincial government will allow Manitoba’s Department of Vital Statistics to share all records, including death records, of Indigenous children attending residential schools in Manitoba with the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation.
“I believe trust begins and ends with the truth and I hope that today we build trust,” said Government Minister James Teitsma.
“We cannot lose sight of the harsh reality of the information being shared. It is a somber and sobering reminder of the intergenerational impact that boarding schools have had on our province and our nation.”
The National Center for Truth and Reconciliation, which grew out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that was active from 2008 to 2015, was created to be the steward of all declarations, documents and sacred objects collected during that time, he said Scott.
It is also charged with continuing the research, education and engagement of the TRC. One of TRC’s 94 appeals, No. 71, called for provincial and statistical authorities to provide death certificates of all Indigenous children in the care of school administrators.
“Through this agreement, the NCTR can access information on death certificates … [that] will help families and the NCTR fill in some of the gaps that are currently preventing us from uncovering more truths about boarder children who have not returned home and are in unmarked burials,” said Scott.
“If we have the name of a student who attended a particular school, but we don’t have information about when or how they died or where they were buried, we may now be able to add that crucial information to the historical record.”
Scott doesn’t expect important statistics to contain information about every student whose life is researched, “but every new piece of information we get is important … and helps complete the narratives about what happened to the kids that didn’t.” have made it home. “
Grand Chief Cathy Merrick of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and Grand Chief Garrison Settee of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak both called the signing of the agreement a historic but long overdue moment.
“Today is the day we embark on a journey where nations can find answers,” Settee said.
Merrick said access to death certificates will “give hope to our people who have sought this closure” and give identity to those in unmarked graves.
“They need to be talked about. We have to talk about their names because they never had that in the boarding schools. They were numbers for the governments,” she said.
A national emergency hotline for Indian residential schools is available to assist survivors and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24 hour service at 1-866-925-4419.
Mental health counseling and crisis support are also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the Hope for Wellness hotline at 1-855-242-3310 or via online chat.