Feds, province agree to help fund search for unmarked graves at former Ont. residential school site


Sault Ste. Marie –

Garden River First Nation has secured funding from the federal and provincial governments to help with the search for unmarked graves at former residential school sites near Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

The First Nation said Monday the three-year funding commitment will help it establish internal protocols for the search, which will help its own residents dealing with generational trauma.

Garden River opened talks with the federal government last year, coinciding with the search for unmarked graves at the former Shingwauk Residential School site.

That search is being conducted by the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association.

Chief Andy Rickard said he wanted to go above and beyond to help his people, by setting up internal protocols.

“One of the things I wanted to do was approach the feds and find out if there was any resources there to do some of the internal work within our own community, in terms of trauma, healing, all that kind of stuff and then obviously looking at the grounds of those areas,” Rickard said.

He said the federal government brought in the province to help with further resources and both levels of government committed to a three-year funding deal.

“We acknowledge those contributions and I think that’s part of reconciliation, being able to assist communities that are looking to do this kind of work, especially that kind of healing work within our communities,” Rickard said.

The Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association said it has wanted the First Nation to co-lead in the search it started at the Shingwauk site last year. But search director Jay Jones said the funding announcement is a surprise.

“We’ve reached out to them repeatedly, both I have, Irene Barbeau our president, has reached out to them and they have not returned our emails, or inquiries or anything,” Jones said.

The First Nation said details are still in the preliminary stages regarding exactly what it will be doing with the funds. It could include conducting its own search for unmarked graves.

But Jones said working together will be more productive.

“Being the Shingwauk Education Trust, being the overseer of this site, they have a right to do it, they have a right to lead this, but we also have a right to help lead this project,” he said.

Garden River said it couldn’t confirm an official dollar figure for how much it will receive. 

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