Canada and British Columbia support Tseshaht First Nation to locate and commemorate their missing children from former residential schools

News release

Taking care: We recognize that this statement comes at a time that is difficult for many and that our efforts to honour victims and families may act as an unwelcome reminder to those who have suffered hardships through generations of government policies that were harmful to Indigenous Peoples. A support line is available to former residential school students and their families for support, emotional and crisis referral services. You can also find information on how to obtain other health supports from the Government of Canada.

Please call the Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419 if you or someone you know is triggered while reading this.

We encourage all those who need some support at this time to reach out and know that support is always there for you through the Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310 (toll-free) or the online chat at hopeforwellness.ca, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

August 13, 2021 — Tseshaht First Nation, Port Alberni, British Columbia — Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada

The location and confirmation of unmarked graves of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children at former residential school sites across Canada are tragic reminders of the mistreatment of Indigenous children. As part of efforts to address historical wrongs and the lasting physical, emotional, mental and spiritual harms, the Government of Canada and Government of British Columbia are supporting Tseshaht First Nation as they embark on the difficult work of honouring the missing children who attended the Alberni Indian Resident School.

Today, Elected Chief Ken Watts of the Tseshaht First Nation, the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, and the Honourable Murray Rankin, British Columbia Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, announced funding of $1.028 million for the Tseshaht First Nation to work with Survivors, intergenerational Survivors, knowledge keepers and leaders to address the location, documentation, maintenance and commemoration of burial sites associated with the Alberni Indian Residential School, and to provide wrap-around mental health and wellness supports to community members.

This community-led process will ensure Tseshaht First Nation can undertake this work in their own way and at their own pace.

The Government of Canada will provide funding of up to $550,000 over two years (2021-2022 and 2022-2023) for the project. The Province of British Columbia will provide $475,000 over two years (2021-2022 and 2022-2023).

During this summer of reflection, Canadians are absorbing the realities of the horrors of residential schools and the missing children and unmarked burial sites at across the country and the damaging legacy and intergenerational trauma that persists today.

Addressing the harms suffered by Survivors, their families and communities is at the heart of reconciliation. This work is essential as we renew and rebuild our relationships between all Indigenous Peoples, their families and communities, governments, and all Canadians.

Quotes

“We are here to support Tseshaht First Nation and their community as they do this important and difficult work. Canadians now recognize the tragic legacy of residential schools – what it must have felt like to have your children taken away from you against your will and some  never to return home. The hearts of Canadians are with the Tseshaht  First Nation in the search for their missing children and their healing journey”

The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, M.D., P.C., M.P.
Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations

“We commend the leadership of Tseshaht First Nation as they embark on the difficult work of honouring the children who never came home. Their efforts, as well as those of other caretaker communities, are helping to reveal the full extent of the atrocities of the Indian Residential School system. This funding supports one more step toward truth, healing, and justice for survivors and their families.”

The Honourable Murray Rankin
British Columbia Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation

“Tseshaht First Nation, like all First Nations across the country, continue to feel the impacts of residential schools and the resurfaced trauma over the last few months with the growing number of confirmed unmarked graves of children at former residential school sites. Like Tk'emlúps te Secwe̓pemc, Tseshaht had a residential school placed within our traditional territory without our consent. The Alberni Indian Residential school (AIRS) was in operation in Tseshaht territory from 1900-1973. We recognize the far reaching and generational impacts this has had on our own Nation and the Nations whose children were forcibly placed in the Alberni Indian Residential School.

Tseshaht Council, Hawiih (hereditary chiefs) and community are committed to working with survivors to ensure that the investigation that we are embarking on proceeds in a manner that is grounded in culture protocols and honours the voices of survivors and those who never made it home.

Tseshaht has called on the Federal government and churches to address the harms caused by placing this institution in our community. Today we acknowledge the funding commitments from both the Federal and Provincial governments to begin the important work that is necessary to take another step toward healing for our community and all those impacted by AIRS. This initial step toward reconciliation marks an important time in history. Government, churches, Indigenous leaders and society, collectively have a responsibility to create a better future for our children and generations to come - a future where every child genuinely knows that they matter.”

Chief Ken Watts
Tseshaht First Nation

Quick facts

  • On August 10, 2021, the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, announced $83 million in additional investments to support First Nation, Inuit and Metis Survivors, their families and communities. This supplements the $33.8 million announced in Budget 2019, for a total investment of $116.8 million responding to Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action 72 to 76.

  • A National Residential School Crisis Line is available to provide support to former residential school students. You can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-Hour National Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419. 

  • There is also the Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310, including an online chat function through their website.

  • The Government of Canada acknowledges that the provision of additional and robust supports is not just a short-term need, but rather a medium- to long-term need for many communities across British Columbia and across the country.

Associated links

Contacts

For more information, media may contact:

Ani Dergalstanian
Press Secretary and Communications Advisor
Office of the Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations
819-997-0002

Media Relations
Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada
819-934-2302
RCAANC.media.CIRNAC@canada.ca

Mike McNeney
Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation
250-361-7299

Chief Ken Watts
Tseshaht First Nation
250-720-6100
kenwatts@tseshaht.com

Media Relations
Melissa Bigmore
communications@tseshaht.com

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