Warning: Please note that the following blog post contains information which some may find upsetting. This includes references to missing children and residential schools.
At a special council meeting held on May 17, 2022, Brantford City Council unanimously supported a Notice of Motion that calls on the federal and provincial governments, as well as the Anglican Church, to release all documents in the possession of the Government of Canada, the Government of Ontario, and the Anglican Church related to the former Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School to Survivors’ Secretariat immediately.
Ward 5 Councillor, Joshua Wall, worked closely with the Survivors’ Secretariat on drafting the Notice of Motion to ensure that it was respectful and would ultimately help the efforts and mandate of the Secretariat.
Prior to the council meeting, Brantford Mayor Kevin Davis invited Survivors to join the Council for food and conversation.
Why The Secretariat Needs These Records
Finding Missing Children and Unmarked Burials associated with the Mohawk Institute is the primary mandate of the Survivors’ Secretariat. An important part of this work is to “access and obtain all information, documentation, and records related to children who were taken to the Mohawk Institute.”
Know History, a Canadian historical archives and documents organization, works closely with the Secretariat to locate, organize, examine, and house documents and records related to the Mohawk Institute. There are a multitude of records in various forms and formats that will help Survivors put together the pieces in their search for missing children.
“It still affects me today, what they did to us,” said Geronimo Henry, Survivor of the former Mohawk Institute and member of the Secretariat’s Board of Directors. Speaking at the Special Motion meeting, his words underscored the long-standing and intergenerational trauma brought on from the residential school system.
“The activation of releasing each and every record, along with its full ownership, to Survivors is critical to upholding the resolutions expressed at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” explains Laura Arndt, Lead, Survivors’ Secretariat. “Without this action, the full work of reconciliation, healing and justice cannot be resolved.”
“No words of apology will drown out the screams of a mother as her children are ripped from her life,”said Diane Hill, Survivor of the Mohawk Institute and member of the Survivors’ Secretariat Board of Directors at the Special Motion meeting. “This truth is still pitiful, still ugly and still hideous.”
About the City of Brantford's Meeting & Motion
As referenced above, during the May 17th council meeting, members of Council and City staff heard directly from three Survivors and Board of Directors members; Dawn Hill, Geronimo Henry and Diane Hill. This group shared their experiences at the former Mohawk Institute and asked the City of Brantford for concrete action in their efforts to release any and all relevant documentation possessed by the City.
Survivors’ Secretariat representative, Scott Robertson, detailed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s specific call to action that the federal government work with churches, Aboriginal communities, and former residential school students to establish and maintain an online registry of residential school cemeteries, including plot maps showing the location of deceased residential school children.
Other Municipalities Who Are Getting Involved
Since the City of Brantford Notice of Motion, the Secretariat has received additional letters of support from the Wainfleet, Shuniah, and Hearst municipalities.
However, according to a June 2021 article by CBC News, only the records from Alberta and B.C. have been submitted to the head of archives for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR). The organization has been in negotiations with every province to get these records, but still hasn’t received an agreement.
Ottawa has also entered into an agreement with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to hand over thousands more records on residential schools that the federal government has been holding back. However, these agreements do not seem to have been fulfilled.
Working with the City of Brantford
The Survivors’ Secretariat has been working closely with the City of Brantford since the inception of the organization. Here’s a list of what the City has accomplished with us to date.
- Capturing of LiDAR data and Participation in Training at WCC
- Establishing a process with nearby Brantford developer
- Sharing and updating regional maps
- Special Motion
- Promotion of Every Child Matters on bus wrap advertising
- Statements made and Partnerships with the Police Task Force
- Participation in NCTR Day and our Survivor Gathering
You Can Help
While the Secretariat is doing all it can to release all school, health and church records, you too can help the process. To enable change, call your municipality and/or write letters to your local, provincial and federal politicians. You may wish to use the information included in this press release for your own communications.
Here are a few ways in which you can work with your municipalities to support Survivors of the Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School:
- Write a letter to your local municipality and ask them to support the City of Brantford’s Notice of Motion.
- Call your local representative and/or municipality and share details of this Motion and why their support is needed.
- Participate in a Town Hall or Community Meeting and speak with officials about their support.
- Share this blog post as well as background information about the Motion on social media and with colleagues, friends, family and neighbours.
- Support Survivors’ Secretariat by donating or volunteering if this is within your means.
Thank you in advance for your advocacy; your voice will help the Secretariat gain momentum for this important issue.