Canada supports Bigstone Health Commission research and commemoration, and fieldwork investigation activities around former Residential School sites

News release

Taking care: We recognize 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 Residential School Crisis Line is available to provide support to Survivors who can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-Hour National Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.

Indigenous Peoples can also access the Hope for Wellness Help Line by phone at 1-855-242-3310 or via online chat through the website at www.hopeforwellness.ca.

May, 3, 2022 — Bigstone Cree Nation, Alberta — Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada

The locating of unmarked burials at former residential school sites across Canada is a tragic reminder of the abuse that many Indigenous children suffered in these institutions. The Government of Canada is working with Survivors, Indigenous leaders and affected families and communities to address historical wrongs and the lasting physical, emotional, mental and spiritual harms related to the legacy of residential schools. Part of this work includes efforts being made to locate and commemorate missing children who attended residential schools, as well as responding to Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action 72 to 76.

Bigstone Health Commission is undertaking work related to research, knowledge gathering, commemoration, memorialization, and fieldwork investigation around two former Residential Schools - Wabasca (St. John's) and Desmarais (Wabiscaw Lake, St. Martin’s, Wabiscaw).

Today, Lorraine Muskwa, Chief Executive Officer of Bigstone Health Commission, and the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, announced funding totalling $2,009,322 for fiscal years 2021-2024 through the Residential Schools Missing Children – Community Support Funding program to assist with this important work.

Bigstone Health Commission has established an Elder Advisory Committee to oversee archival research, interviews, gatherings for Survivors, and ground penetrating radar at both residential school sites. Fieldwork investigation is planned to commence summer 2022. This community-led process will ensure Bigstone Cree 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 renewing and building relationships with Indigenous Peoples, governments, and all Canadians.

Quotes

“Honouring those that lived through the residential schools’ experience and as work to find the truth of those children that did not return home, we will continuously live the trauma and need to begin the healing process for the community, families and our future generations”.

Mike Beaver, Bert Alook, Vina Young
Elders Advisory Committee, Bigstone Cree Nation

“We acknowledge Bigstone Health Commission and the Elder Advisory Committee for seeking the truth and working toward healing for Survivors, their families and their communities. Our Government is committed to supporting all Indigenous communities in searching for and commemorating the children who never returned home from residential schools.”

The Honourable Marc Miller
Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations

Quick facts

  • Bigstone Cree Nation is comprised of three communities: Calling Lake, Chipewyan Lake, and Wabasca located in northern Alberta with an on-reserve population of 3,500 and 4,700 members living off-reserve.

  • 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, including $83 million in additional investments towards community support funding for Residential Schools missing children. This $83 million 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 Survivors 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 for Indigenous Peoples at 1-855-242-3310 or via the online chat function through their website.

Associated links

Contacts

For more information, media may contact:

Justine Leblanc
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Marc Miller
Minister of Crown–Indigenous Relations
justine.leblanc@rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca

CIRNAC Media Relations:
RCAANC.Media.CIRNAC@sac-isc.gc.ca
Phone: 819-934-2302

Lorraine Muskwa
Bigstone Health Commission
780-891-2000
lorraine.muskwa@bigstonehealth.ca

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