Missing children and burial information

Learn how the Government of Canada is responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action 71 to 76.

Based on January 2023 information.

71. We call upon all chief coroners and provincial vital statistics agencies that have not provided to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada their records on the deaths of Aboriginal children in the care of residential school authorities to make these documents available to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

What's happening?

The chief coroners and provincial vital statistics agencies are responsible for the response to Call to Action 71.

72. We call upon the federal government to allocate sufficient resources to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to allow it to develop and maintain the National Residential School Student Death Register established by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

What's happening?

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's (TRC) "Missing Children and Unmarked Burials Project" was an effort to record and analyze deaths at former residential schools and the presence and condition of student cemeteries. The important work advanced by the TRC was a beginning, and the TRC acknowledged that significant work still needed to be done, leading to the development of the calls to action regarding Missing Children and Burial Information.

In 2018, in response to Call to Action 78, the Government of Canada provided $10 million to support the important work of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, as announced by the Prime Minister in December 2016. In 2017 and 2018, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) partnered with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) by investing $500,000 to support the development of the National Residential Student Death Register, a national database holding information on the children who died or went missing while attending residential schools. The investment supported:

  • the preparation of data for analysis and research previously collected by the TRC's Missing Children and Unmarked Burials Project
  • community-level Survivor-centered engagement on access and privacy considerations
  • a documentary research project to inform next steps in the development of the database

In 2019, the Government of Canada announced an investment of $33.8 million over 3 years for the implementation of Calls to Action 72 to 76. This includes $2.6 million over 2 years for the continued collaboration with the NCTR, to develop and maintain the National Residential School Student Death Register and Memorial Register.

The NCTR launched the Memorial Register in September 2019 from information obtained while establishing the National Residential School Student Death Register.

The Memorial Register is a publicly-facing, searchable and ever-greening online registry that currently contains the names of 4,130 names of children who died while in the care of a residential school listed under the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement. The Memorial Register is hosted and maintained by the NCTR.

Recent progress

In 2021 to 2022, CIRNAC committed $2.2 million in core funding to the NCTR, to support the Centre’s review of the documents in their collection that may provide important information to be included in the National Residential School Death Register.

73. We call upon the federal government to work with churches, Aboriginal communities, and former residential school students to establish and maintain an online registry of residential school cemeteries, including, where possible, plot maps showing the location of deceased residential school children.

What's happening?

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) is a key partner in the implementation of the Call to Action 73 by engaging Survivors and Indigenous communities over the course of implementation and as the primary information repository for the online national registry of residential school cemeteries.

The Government of Canada is providing supports, tools, expertise and resources to communities leading initiatives on researching, locating, documenting and commemorating residential school cemeteries and other burial sites. Survivors, families and communities will decide what information they may wish to share with the Government of Canada, the NCTR and other partners to document cemeteries or burial sites that include their children.

Recent budget investments

In 2019, the Government of Canada announced an investment of $33.8 million over 3 years for the implementation of Calls to Action 72 to 76, which included funding for the development of an online National Residential School Cemetery Register.

Recent progress

In June to November 2020, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) engaged with various partners internal and external to the Government of Canada in the development of an online National Residential School Cemetery Register. The collaboration with the NCTR includes additional funding to support the development and maintenance of this register.

The implementation of Call to Action 73 is led by CIRNAC in partnership with the NCTR.

Next steps

The Cemetery Register is currently under development. Once completed, it will be hosted and maintained by the NCTR. CIRNAC will continue working with partners to advance this initiative. This ongoing work will increase the information available to families and Survivors on student deaths and burial places, accelerate the progress made to fill gaps in data collected to date and improve access to information on missing or deceased family members.

74. We call upon the federal government to work with the churches and Aboriginal community leaders to inform the families of children who died at residential schools of the child's burial location, and to respond to families' wishes for appropriate commemoration ceremonies and markers, and reburial in home communities where requested.

What's happening?

Between July and November 2020, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) hosted 16 virtual engagement sessions with over 140 participants from a wide variety of organizations across Canada. Through these sessions, CIRNAC heard from Survivors and received guidance, in keeping with the principles set out in these calls to action, on the development of a national strategy that will facilitate the identification, documentation, information sharing and commemoration of residential school cemeteries and burial sites.

CIRNAC supports this Survivor-centric, trauma-informed and community-led initiative by providing resources for Indigenous community partners and organizations impacted by each school and other parties such as provincial, territorial or municipal officials, and church entities as requested to come together to engage on next steps and a plan to advance this important work.

The Government of Canada is providing the tools, resources and expertise requested by the communities to address the wishes of Survivors, their families and communities to commemorate these cemeteries, memorialize the children and honour them in culturally appropriate ways through ceremony.

Recent budget investments

In 2019, the Government of Canada announced an investment of $33.8 million over 3 years for the implementation of Calls to Action 72 to 76.

In August 2021, the Government announced an additional $83 million investment for CIRNAC to continue providing urgently needed support for community-led efforts to locate, document, commemorate and memorialize burial sites associated with former residential schools and honour families’ wishes to bring children’s remains home.

Budget 2022 allocated an additional $135.6 million over the next five years, bringing the Government of Canada's total investment to $252.4 million to date to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action 72 to 76 on residential schools missing children and burial information. This includes $13.6 million over five years for Calls to Action 72 to 73 and $122 million over three years for Calls to Action 74 to 76

Recent progress

On June 2, 2021, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations announced $27.1 million in funding to support Indigenous communities in locating and commemorating the children who never returned home from residential school. This funding is dedicated to locating, documenting, maintaining and commemorating burial sites associated with former residential schools and responding to family wishes to commemorate or memorialize their losses and the children's final resting places.

On June 7, 2021, CIRNAC launched the Residential Schools Missing Children – Community Support funding initiative for the implementation of Calls to Action 74-76. Through this initiative, CIRNAC supports community-led efforts to locate, document, and memorialize burial sites associated with former residential schools, and honour families' wishes to bring children's remains home. The Government of Canada will continue to support communities as their needs evolve while they undertake this important work.

As of January 11, 2023, CIRNAC has recieved 127 formal requests totaling over $273.2 million from Indigenous communities and organizations for activities relating to residential schools. To date, 97 funding requests ($99.3 million) have been approved by CIRNAC.

For more information, see: Residential schools missing children: community support funding.

To support this work, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) received $201 million over 2 years in Budget 2022 to renew the expanded access to trauma-informed cultural and emotional supports from the $107.3 million August 2021 announcement for all residential school Survivors and others impacted by the legacy of residential schools. In partnership with CIRNAC and National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR), ISC is supporting a public status update on residential school properties to better understand the current state of any remaining buildings and former residential school locations.

In July 2022, CIRNAC established a National Advisory Committee to guide the implementation of Calls to Action 74 to 76. The National Advisory Committee serves as an independent and trusted source of technical advice for communities in their efforts to locate, honour, memorialize or bring home children who dies in residential schools. The National Advisory Committee brings together a diverse range of expertise on matters such as Indigenous law and protocols, archival research, search technologies privacy laws, and preservation of evidence.

Next steps

CIRNAC will continue to engage with communities to:

  • increase the amount of information available on student deaths and burial places
  • accelerate progress made to identify and fill gaps in data collected by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  • ultimately improve access to information for Indigenous communities and family members on missing or deceased relatives

CIRNAC will also work closely with the National Advisory Committee on Calls to Action 74 to 76.

75. We call upon the federal government to work with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, churches, Aboriginal communities, former residential school students, and current landowners to develop and implement strategies and procedures for the ongoing identification, documentation, maintenance, commemoration, and protection of residential school cemeteries or other sites at which residential school children were buried. This is to include the provision of appropriate memorial ceremonies and commemorative markers to honour the deceased children.

What's happening?

Between July and November 2020, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) hosted a series of virtual engagement sessions which provided an opportunity for discussion with representatives from Indigenous organizations across the country, including:

  • multiple Survivor groups
  • advocacy organizations
  • healing and cultural centres
  • Indigenous archives and research institutions
  • church representatives
  • heritage practitioners with provincial, territorial and municipal governments

Knowledge Keepers and health support workers also attended the sessions, providing valuable insights and support.

Recent budget investments

In 2019, the Government of Canada announced an investment of $33.8 million over 3 years for the implementation of Calls to Action 72 to 76, which included funding for the development of an online National Residential School Cemetery Register.

In August 2021, the Government announced an additional $83 million investment for CIRNAC to continue providing urgently needed support for community-led efforts to locate, document, commemorate and memorialize burial sites associated with former residential schools and honour families’ wishes to bring children’s remains home.

Budget 2022 allocated an additional $135.6 million over the next five years, bringing the Government of Canada's total investment to $252.4 million to date to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action 72 to 76 on residential schools missing children and burial information. This includes $13.6 million over five years for Calls to Action 72 to 73 and $122 million over three years for Calls to Action 74 to 76.

Recent progress

CIRNAC hosted a series of 16 virtual engagement sessions with over 140 participants from a wide variety of organizations across Canada from July to November 2020.

Through these sessions, CIRNAC sought guidance on the development of a national strategy that will incorporate the guiding principles put forth in these calls to action to facilitate the ongoing identification, documentation, maintenance, commemoration and protection of residential school cemeteries or other sites at which residential school children were buried.

On June 2, 2021, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations announced $27.1 million in funding to support Indigenous communities in locating and commemorating their missing children. This funding is dedicated to locating, documenting, maintaining and commemorating burial sites associated with former residential schools and responding to family wishes to commemorate or memorialize their losses and the children's final resting places.

On June 7, 2021, CIRNAC launched the Residential Schools Missing Children – Community Support funding initiative for the implementation of Calls to Action 74-76. Through this initiative, CIRNAC supports community-led efforts to locate, document, and memorialize burial sites associated with former residential schools, and honour families' wishes to bring children's remains home. The Government of Canada will continue to support communities as their needs evolve while they undertake this important work.

As of January 11, 2023, CIRNAC has received 127 formal requests totaling over $273.2 million from Indigenous communities and organizations for activities relating to residential schools. To date, 97 funding requests ($99.3 million) have been approved by CIRNAC.

For more information, please visit: Residential schools missing children: community support funding.

To support this work, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) received $201 million over 2 years in Budget 2022 to renew the expanded access to trauma-informed cultural and emotional supports from the $107.3 million August 2021 announcement for all residential school Survivors and others impacted by the legacy of residential schools. In partnership with CIRNAC and National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR). ISC is supporting a public status update on residential school properties to better understand the current state of any remaining buildings and former residential school locations.

In July 2022, CIRNAC established a National Advisory Committee to guide the implementation of Calls to Action 74 to 76. The National Advisory Committee serves as an independent and trusted source of technical advice for communities in their efforts to locate, honour, memorialize or bring home children who dies in residential schools. The National Advisory Committee brings together a diverse range of expertise on matters such as Indigenous law and protocols, archival research, search technologies privacy laws, and preservation of evidence.

Next steps

CIRNAC will continue to review funding proposals to advance this call to action and work closely with the National Advisory Committee.

76. We call upon the parties engaged in the work of documenting, maintaining, commemorating, and protecting residential school cemeteries to adopt strategies in accordance with the following principles:

  1. The Aboriginal community most affected shall lead the development of such strategies.
  2. Information shall be sought from residential school Survivors and other Knowledge Keepers in the development of such strategies.
  3. Indigenous protocols shall be respected before any potentially invasive technical inspection and investigation of a cemetery site.

What's happening?

Call to Action 76 sets out the overall principles for advancing the implementation of Calls to Action 72 to 75. For this call to action, CIRNAC hosted a series of 16 virtual engagement sessions throughout the summer and fall of 2020 with over 140 participants from a wide variety of Indigenous organizations across Canada.

Through these engagement sessions, CIRNAC received the necessary guidance for the development of a national approach to the implementation of Calls to Action 74 and 75 and advice on the creation of a National Advisory Committee that was established in July 2022 . The National Advisory Committee will adopt strategies in accordance with the principles set out in Call to Action 76.

The engagement concurred with Call to Action 76, that:

  • the Indigenous community most affected will lead the development of such strategies
  • information will be sought from residential school Survivors and other Knowledge Keepers in the development of such strategies
  • Indigenous protocols will be respected before any potentially invasive technical inspection and investigation of a cemetery site

Recent budget investments

In 2019, the Government of Canada announced an investment of $33.8 million over 3 years for the implementation of Calls to Action 72 to 76.

In August 2021, the Government announced an additional $83 million investment for CIRNAC to continue providing urgently needed support for community-led efforts to locate, document, commemorate and memorialize burial sites associated with former residential schools and honour families’ wishes to bring children’s remains home.

Budget 2022 allocated an additional $135.6 million over the next five years, bringing the Government of Canada's total investment to $252.4 million to date to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action 72 to 76 on residential schools missing children and burial information. This includes $13.6 million over five years for Calls to Action 72 to 73 and $122 million over three years for Calls to Action 74 to 76.

Recent progress

CIRNAC hosted 16 virtual engagement sessions with more than 140 participants from a wide variety of organizations across Canada from July to November 2020.

Through these sessions, they sought guidance on the development of a national strategy that will incorporate the guiding principles put forth in these calls to action, facilitate the ongoing identification, documentation, maintenance, commemoration and protection of residential school cemeteries or other sites at which children who attended residential school were buried.

On June 2, 2021, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations announced $27.1 million in funding to support Indigenous communities in locating and commemorating their missing children. This funding is dedicated to locating, documenting, maintaining and commemorating burial sites associated with former residential schools and responding to family wishes to commemorate or memorialize their losses and the children's final resting places.

On June 7, 2021, CIRNAC launched the Residential Schools Missing Children – Community Support funding initiative for the implementation of Calls to Action 74 to76. Through the initiative, CIRNAC provides funding to Indigenous communities to undertake community-led initiatives to locate, document, and memorialize burial sites associated with former Indian residential schools, and honour families' wishes to bring children's remains home.

As of January 11, 2023, CIRNAC has received 127 formal requests totaling over $273.2 million from Indigenous communities and organizations for activities relating to residential schools. To date, 97 funding requests ($99.3 million) have been approved by CIRNAC.

For more information, please visit: Residential schools missing children: community support funding.

To support this work, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) received $201 million over 2 years in Budget 2022 to renew the expanded access to trauma-informed cultural and emotional supports from the $107.3 million August 2021 announcement for all residential school Survivors and others impacted by the legacy of residential schools. In partnership with CIRNAC and NCTR, ISC is supporting a public status update on residential school properties to better understand the current state of any remaining buildings and former residential school locations.

In July 2022, CIRNAC established a National Advisory Committee to guide the implementation of Calls to Action 74 to 76. The National Advisory Committee serves as an independent and trusted source of technical advice for communities in their efforts to locate, honour, memorialize or bring home children who dies in residential schools. The National Advisory Committee brings together a diverse range of expertise on matters such as Indigenous law and protocols, archival research, search technologies privacy laws, and preservation of evidence.

Next steps

CIRNAC will continue to collaborate with Survivors, Indigenous communities, the National Advisory Committee, and others on the work of documenting, maintaining, commemorating, and protecting residential school cemeteries and adopt strategies in accordance with the principles noted in the Call to Action 76.

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