Alberta to announce funding for research into unmarked burial sites, deaths at residential schools

WARNING: This story contains details some readers may find distressing.

The Alberta government will announce funding today for research into unmarked burial sites and undocumented deaths at residential schools across the province.

Premier Jason Kenney and Rick Wilson, the minister of Indigenous relations, are holding a news conference this morning.

It begins at 11 a.m. MT and you can watch it live here.

Alberta’s decision to fund research follows the discovery last month of a burial site adjacent to the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in B.C.’s southern Interior.

Preliminary findings from a survey using ground-penetrating radar suggest the site contains the remains of 215 children, according to the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation.

The Kamloops discovery sparked a national outcry.

In its wake, there have been repeated calls for provinces to pay for search efforts at former residential school sites.

On Monday, National Indigenous People’s Day, Manitoba announced it will spend $2.5 million on investigating burial sites at former residential schools across the province.

Last week, Saskatchewan committed to spending $2 million to search residential school sites for unmarked graves. The province and the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan, called on Ottawa to match the provincial funding.

The Ontario government last week pledged $10 million to identify and commemorate residential school burial sites. The money will be spent over three years to identify, investigate and memorialize residential school burial sites in the province, with the help of Indigenous leaders, elders and residential school survivors.

In its 2019 budget, the federal government earmarked $33 million to implement burial-related recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Speaking to reporters earlier this month, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said $27 million of that funding is still available to help Indigenous communities find and commemorate lost children.

Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools and those who are triggered by the latest reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

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