Canada and Province of British Columbia support Williams Lake First Nation's research and commemoration activities at former residential school
Taking care: We recognize that this news release may contain information that is difficult for many and that our efforts to honour Survivors and families may act as an unwelcome reminder for those who have suffered hardships through generations of government policies that were harmful to Indigenous Peoples.
A National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available to provide support to former residential school students, who 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 for Indigenous Peoples at 1-855-242-3310 or through the online chat via the help line website at www.hopeforwellness.ca.
January 7, 2022 — Williams Lake First Nation, British Columbia — Crown–Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada
The locating of unmarked graves at former residential school sites across Canada is a tragic reminder of the abuse Indigenous children suffered in those institutions. As part of efforts to address historical wrongs and the lasting physical, emotional, mental and spiritual harms related to the legacy of residential schools, our government is working with Survivors, Indigenous leaders, and affected families and communities, including Williams Lake First Nation. Together, we will undertake the difficult work of finding and commemorating missing children who were taken from their families to attend residential schools, such as the former St. Joseph's Mission Residential School.
Williams Lake First Nation will undertake work related to burial sites associated with the former St. Joseph's Mission Residential School. The community is currently completing a preliminary investigation that includes interviews with former students and their families, an initial geophysical survey, and the compilation of archival and photographic records related to the disappearances and deaths of First Nations students at this institution. Today, Chief Willie Sellars of Williams Lake First Nation in British Columbia; the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Crown–Indigenous Relations; and Murray Rankin, British Columbia Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, announced funding totalling $1,912,460 for fiscal year 2021–22 to contribute to this important work.
Additionally, work will begin to support bringing Elders and Survivors together to conduct interviews and share knowledge on unmarked graves, and to gather, plan and host cultural ceremonies within their community. This community-led process will ensure that Williams Lake First Nation can undertake this work in their own way and at their own pace.
Addressing the harms suffered by Survivors, their families and communities is at the heart of reconciliation and is essential to renew and rebuild relationships with Indigenous Peoples, governments and all Canadians.
"The residential school system has caused indelible damage to our community and to most First Nations communities that had children that were forced to attend, or otherwise attended, these institutions. We're appreciative that Canada and the Province of British Columbia have provided this initial funding in 2021–22 so that we can begin the investigation of the former St. Joseph's Mission and surrounding area. There is much work to be done to uncover the truth about this horrific and protracted chapter of Canadian history, and even more work to be done to heal from the wounds that it has left on Indigenous people."
Chief of Williams Lake First Nation
"Our thoughts are with Survivors, their families and the people of Williams Lake First Nation as they begin the preliminary investigation of the St. Joseph's Mission Residential School. I recognize that this is an extremely difficult and emotional time. Canada continues to stand ready to help Indigenous Peoples as they undertake this important work of uncovering the truth."
The Honourable Marc Miller
Minister of Crown–Indigenous Relations
"This is just the beginning of a long journey to truth, justice and healing for Williams Lake First Nation and all First Nations whose children were taken to this institution. I honour their courage to reveal the hard truths of British Columbia's colonial history and their commitment to finding answers for survivors, their families and communities. We continue to respectfully stand alongside and support them as they take the next step in this difficult process."
The Honourable Murray Rankin
B.C. Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation
Through the Residential Schools Missing Children Fund, Crown–Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada will provide $1,437,460 through the Residential Schools Missing Children – Community Support Fund and the Province of British Columbia will provide $475,000 to support a community-led process, ensuring that Williams Lake First Nation can undertake the work in their own way and at their own pace.
On August 10, 2021, the Government of Canada announced approximately $320 million in additional support for Indigenous-led, Survivor-centric and culturally informed initiatives and investments to help Indigenous communities respond to and heal from the ongoing impacts of residential schools.
To date, $116.8 million has been committed to support First Nation, Inuit and Métis Survivors, their families and communities and go toward locating and commemorating missing children who attended residential schools, responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action 72 to 76.
A National Residential School Crisis Line is available to provide support to former residential school students, who can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-Hour National Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.
The Hope for Wellness Help Line is also available at 1-855-242-3310 or via the online chat function through their website.
- Residential Schools Missing Children – Community Support Funding
- Government of Canada enhances support to Indigenous communities to respond to and heal from the ongoing impacts of residential schools – Canada.ca
- Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program
- Missing children and burial information – Calls to Action 72 to 76
For more information, media may contact:
Director of Communications
Office of the Honourable Marc Miller
Minister of Crown–Indigenous Relations
Crown–Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada
Williams Lake First Nation
Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation
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