Survivors’ Secretariat Lead, Laura Arndt is raising concerns about the Federal Government’s plan to decrease and cap funding for communities looking into unmarked burials at former Indian Residential Schools. Arndt revealed the Federal Government informed Survivors’ Secretariat they would receive less funding in the upcoming 2024-2025 fiscal period. “We are being told that communities will see a ceiling of $3 million per year over the next three years to conduct the painstaking work of searching for unmarked burials.” A decrease in funding is a devastating message to Survivors coming a week before the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and just three months after announcing Canada’s impending release of 23.1 million additional records.
“You do not restore a relationship with Indigenous People by releasing a flood of records while simultaneously reducing access to funding to review and categorize them.” The Secretariat has employed Know History historical services to review the 20,000 records that have already been released by the National Centre of Truth and Reconciliation. Over the past two and half years, the company deployed 17 researchers, costing over $1 million annually to conduct archival research. Through this work Know History has documented an additional 48 known deaths over and above the number of deaths originally reported by the NCTR in 2012. With the influx of records, it is anticipated that this number will grow and that more resources, not less, will be required.
Archival research is just one way the Secretariat is seeking to uncover unmarked burials at the Mohawk Institute. Additional resources are needed to conduct ground search on the 600 acres associated with the former residential school. Funding is also used to support advocacy and commemoration activities for Survivors from over 50 communities who were forced to send children to the Mohawk Institute. Further, the Secretariat has been creating a database of their records while ensuring Indigenous Data Sovereignty and Governance to guarantee their history remains in the possession of their communities.
The Secretariat urges Canada to reconsider its position to apply a cookie-cutter approach to all communities and to consider the individual needs of each applicant. The history of each school is unique and should be treated as such.