May 31, 2021
Treaty 1 Territory, Homeland of the Métis Nation, Winnipeg MB—Today in the Legislature, Nahanni Fontaine, NDP Critic for Justice and Spokesperson for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two Spirit People, called on the provincial government to search all former residential school grounds to investigate the presence of mass graves. Fontaine also called on the provincial government to work with all levels of government to immediately implement the 94 Calls to Action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“The discovery of the graves of 215 children outside of a former residential school in Kamloops, is a painful reminder of the traumatic legacy of residential schools, a legacy that has been covered up by governments at every level,” said Fontaine. “This is a critical moment in history that demands more than just words of solace – it demands action. The provincial government must respond accordingly and make a commitment today to search for mass graves at all former residential school sites in Manitoba.”
There are fourteen former residential schools in Manitoba. The TRC report states that it is impossible to know the exact number of children who died at residential schools because documents have been destroyed, lost and made inaccessible by churches, schools and government departments. A TRC report by archeologist Dr. Scott Hamilton recommends “multilateral” government strategies to document, maintain and commemorate the cemeteries and unmarked graves of former residential schools.
In 2015, Katherine Nichols, a graduate student at the University of Manitoba worked in collaboration with the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, Brandon University, the United Church of Canada and the RCMP to investigate the deaths at a former residential school in Brandon. Although only 11 children were listed as deceased, through interviews, archival research and archeological methods, the researchers uncovered the names of 70 children, many of whom are buried in unmarked graves on the site.
“The discovery of the 215 children is a painful reminder that governments, churches, and all citizens must work together to implement all 94 of the TRC’s Calls to Action,” said Manitoba Leader NDP Wab Kinew. “We have a moral obligation as a society to afford these children the same dignity we would want for every child — because every child matters.”