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 data provided March 2022.

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 "Missing Children and Unmarked Burials Project" was an effort to record and analyze the deaths at the schools and the presence and condition of student cemeteries. The important work advanced by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a beginning, and the Commission 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 partnered with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation 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 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’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 National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation by further developing and maintaining the National Residential School Student Death Register.

Recent progress

The implementation of Call to Action 72 is led by CIRNAC in partnership with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR). CIRNAC has supported the NCTR in continuing to review the documents in their collection that may provide important information to be included in the National Residential School Student Death Register. The NCTR has produced a Memorial Register from information obtained while establishing the National Residential School Student Death Register.

The Memorial Register was launched in September 2019. It is the 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.

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.

The Cemetery Register is currently under development. Once completed, it will be hosted and maintained by the NCTR.

Next steps

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 additional investments of approximately $320 million to support Indigenous community-led work surrounding burial sites. This included $83 million for CIRNAC to continue supporting 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.

In 2021 to 2022 Crown-Indigenous Relations, in collaboration with Canadian Heritage, combined programming efforts and investments to provide approximately $5 million to support the memorialization of those children who never returned to their families and commemoration of the broader legacy of residential schools.

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 March 7, 2022, more than 99 formal requests totaling over $215 million (approximately $184 million directed to CIRNAC and $31 million to ISC) have been received from Indigenous communities and organizations for activities relating to 110 residential schools. To date, 65 funding requests ($72.5 million) have been approved by CIRNAC. Many of these requests have also included proposals for healing supports and several have specifically requested funds for healing spaces and traditional ceremonies and practices. In addition to the $72.5 million approved by CIRNAC, ISC has approved $10.5 million related to mental health supports and for COVID-19 public health measures for residential school funding requests and has allocated $107.3 million to bolster the existing network of trauma-informed health and cultural supports, including in urban areas, representing a doubling of funding for 2021 to 2022 from previous years.

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

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 is in the process of establishing a National Advisory Committee to:

  • guide the implementation of Calls to Action 74 to 76, which will include Indigenous experts, forensics experts, archaeologists and others to enable the direct involvement of Survivors and their families, Knowledge Keepers, communities and Indigenous cultural heritage practitioners
  • respond to families' wishes for commemoration ceremonies and markers and reburial in home communities as requested. The National Advisory Committee will be a trusted resource to communities, the Government of Canada and the NCTR

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 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 additional investments of approximately $320 million to support Indigenous community-led work surrounding burial sites. This included $83 million for CIRNAC to continue supporting 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.

Recent progress

Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (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 March 7, 2022, more 99 formal requests totaling over $215 million (approximately $184 million directed to CIRNAC and $31 million to ISC) have been received from Indigenous communities and organizations for activities relating to 110 residential schools. To date, 65 funding requests ($72.5 million) have been approved by CIRNAC. Many of these requests have also included proposals for healing supports and several have specifically requested funds for healing spaces and traditional ceremonies and practices. In addition to the $72.5 million approved by CIRNAC, ISC has approved $10.5 million related to mental health supports and for COVID public health measures for Indian residential school funding requests and has allocated $107.3 million to bolster the existing network of trauma-informed health and cultural supports, including in urban areas, representing a doubling of funding for 2021-22 from previous years.

Next steps

CIRNAC is working towards the creation of a National Advisory Committee, which will guide the implementation of Calls to Action 74 to 76 and support the direct involvement of Survivors and their families, Knowledge Keepers, communities and Indigenous cultural heritage practitioners. The department is providing tools, resources and access to specialized expertise for Indigenous partners and communities for community knowledge gathering, planning and memorialization activities through ceremony.

Funding is available for:

  • research, engagement and knowledge-gathering with impacted communities regarding the burial sites of children who may have died and been buried at or near former residential school sites
  • impacted communities to conduct professional burial site surveying and support communities to memorialize the children in a culturally meaningful manner

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 has 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 will be established in summer 2022 . The proposed 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 additional investments of approximately $320 million to support Indigenous community-led work surrounding burial sites, including $83 million for CIRNAC to continue to provide funding to Indigenous communities to support efforts to locate, document, and commemorate or memorialize burial sites associated with former Indian residential schools and honour families’ wishes to bring children’s remains home.

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 March 7, 2022, more than 99 formal requests totaling over $215 million (approximately $184 million directed to CIRNAC and $31 million to ISC) have been received from Indigenous communities and organizations for activities relating to 110 residential schools. To date, 65 funding requests ($72.5 million) have been approved by CIRNAC. Many of these requests have also included proposals for healing supports and several have specifically requested funds for healing spaces and traditional ceremonies and practices. In addition to the $72.5 million approved by CIRNAC, ISC has approved $10.5 million related to mental health supports and for COVID public health measures for residential school funding requests and has allocated $107.3 million to bolster the existing network of trauma-informed health and cultural supports, including in urban areas, representing a doubling of funding for 2021 to 2022 from previous years.

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

Next steps

Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada will set up a National Advisory Committee in the summer of 2022, which will guide the implementation of Calls to Action 74 and 75, based on the principles set out to Call to Action 76, to enable the direct involvement of Survivors and their families, Knowledge Keepers, communities, Indigenous experts and cultural heritage practitioners.

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