Sask. government commits $2 million for research of residential school sites

The Saskatchewan government has announced it will be providing $2 million to the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) to fund research into undocumented deaths and burials on former federally-operated residential school sites in Saskatchewan.

This comes after the province in May sent a joint statement with the FSIN demanding the Canadian government to take immediate action on this issue. Saskatchewan is also calling on Ottawa to match their $2-million investment.

Minister of First Nations, Métis and Northern Affairs Don McMorris said during a virtual conference on Friday that they don’t have a clear signal from the federal government as to how much money they will be contributing to searches in Saskatchewan. Ottawa previously announced $27 million in federal funding which can be accessed by First Nations for these efforts.

“This is a federal government responsibility, so we expect them to step up,” suggested McMorris. “If you look at the proportional number of former residential schools in Saskatchewan to the rest of Canada, we would expect a lion’s share of those funds coming to Saskatchewan.”

Former residential schools have already been identified by the FSIN as possible sites for searches including Muskowekwan, Onion Lake St. Anthony’s, Beauval, Guy Hill, Lebret and Sturgeon Landing. The government says it is believed the list of locations First Nations would like to investigate could increase.

The FSIN is putting together their approach to support First Nations and help carry out this research, as many Indigenous communities across the province have already announced their intention to carry out investigations into former school sites in their communities.

FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said on Friday this is a tremendous start that will help fund actions such as radar ground searches, but more work will be needed.

“It will go towards things like radar ground searches, but a big portion of it will go to our survivors’ input and their stories on where to start,” mentioned Cameron. “The whole protocols and ceremonies will continue. The survivors will have a big voice.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimates that approximately 20 federal residential schools operated in Saskatchewan from the 1880s to the 1990s.

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