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Independent Special Interlocutor to work with Indigenous communities on protection of unmarked graves and burial sites near former residential schools

Press Release

From: Department of Justice Canada

June 8, 2022 – Ottawa, Ontario – Department of Justice Canada

A National Residential School Crisis Line is available to provide support for former Residential School students. Emotional and crisis referral services are available by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

The Hope for Wellness Line is available to all Indigenous peoples and provides immediate, toll-free telephone and on-line support and crisis intervention 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is available in English, French and, upon request, Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut. Trained counsellors are available by phone at 1-855-242-3310 or by online chat on their website.

The identification of unmarked graves and burial sites of Indigenous children at former residential schools has caused us all to reflect on Canada’s history and the truth of this troubling past. While Canada has taken steps to address the past and the ongoing legacy of intergenerational trauma, there is more work to be done in partnership with First Nations, Inuit and Métis leaders and communities to ensure justice for Survivors, families and future generations of Indigenous children.

Today, the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Kúkpi7 Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, and Chief Cadmus Delorme of the Cowessess First Nation announced the appointment of Kimberly Murray as Independent Special Interlocutor for Missing Children and Unmarked Graves and Burial Sites associated with Indian Residential Schools. This appointment is a critical step towards respectful commemoration and justice for First Nations, Inuit and Métis in Canada.

Starting June 14, 2022, Ms. Murray will work closely and collaboratively with Indigenous leaders, communities, Survivors, families and experts to identify needed measures to recommend a new federal legal framework to ensure the respectful and culturally appropriate treatment and protection of unmarked graves and burial sites of children at former residential schools.

In her capacity as Special Interlocutor, Ms. Murray will engage with First Nations, Inuit and Métis governments, representative organizations, communities, Survivors and families to discuss issues of concern around the identification, preservation, and protection of unmarked graves and burial sites, including the potential repatriation of remains. The Special Interlocutor will guide this process, facilitate listening and action by engaging in conversations in ways that are culturally informed, trauma-informed, appropriate and respectful, and based on Indigenous customs, decision and consensus-building practices. Her mandate will also extend to facilitating dialogue with provinces, territories, local communities, as well as other relevant institutions, such as various churches.

This work will be carried out independently and impartially, in a non-partisan and transparent manner. The Special Interlocutor will deliver an interim report after the first year describing her work and progress to date. A final report will be delivered at the end of two years. Both interim and final reports will be delivered concurrently to the Minister of Justice and to First Nations, Métis and Inuit Survivors, families, leaders and communities, and to the public.

The appointment and the work of the Special Interlocutor will be supported by a proposed investment in Budget 2022 of $10.4 million over two years.

Quotes

“I am honoured to have been entrusted with this important responsibility of being the Special Interlocutor. I am committed to supporting the work of Survivors and Indigenous communities to protect, locate, identify, repatriate, and commemorate the children who died while being forced to attend Indian Residential Schools. I pledge to do this work using my heart and my mind in a way that honours the memories of the children who never made it home.”

Kimberly Murray, BA, LL.B, IPC
Independent Special Interlocutor for Missing Children and Unmarked Graves and Burial Sites associated with Indian Residential Schools

“The identification of unmarked graves and burial sites of Indigenous children at residential schools has caused us all to reflect on Canada’s history and the truth of this troubling past. I am honoured to announce the appointment of Kimberly Murray as Special Interlocutor. This work will be an important trust-building exercise that will help communities move forward, find healing for families and Survivors, and push us all toward a more just framework for honouring the memory of Indigenous children who never returned home from residential schools.”

The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

“As Indigenous communities continue leading the difficult work of finding their missing children, the appointment of the Independent Special Interlocutor will support Survivors, their families, and communities in addressing their specific needs in commemorating the children who never returned home from residential schools. The Government of Canada remains committed to supporting First Nations, Inuit, and Métis as they uncover the truth and work towards healing.”

The Honourable Marc Miller, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations

“As we continue to come to terms with the shameful and tragic legacy of residential schools that so many Indigenous people have suffered, we must ensure that our responses are Indigenous-led, Survivor-centric and culturally sensitive. The appointment of a Special Interlocutor responds to the many calls for action that asked for this important independent role. We will continue to listen to Indigenous Peoples as they share their painful truths and we’ll be there to support them on their journey of healing.”

The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Indigenous Services

“On behalf of the Tḱemlúps te Secwépemc, we are very pleased to learn of the appointment and mandate of Kimberly Murray to the position of Special Interlocutor for Canada, in relation to unmarked burials. So many Indigenous communities across Canada are launching investigations into unmarked graves, and we exercise our inherent jurisdiction over those investigations. It will be painstaking, vitally important work—work that will take time and resources. Canada has an essential role to play in ensuring those resources are available, and that all our communities can find their lost children, and comfort them and their families. We look forward to working with Canada, the Special Interlocutor, and our brothers and sisters across the country, as we work for the children, and their relations, to achieve some measure of comfort and justice for them.”

Kúkpi7 Rosanne Casimir
Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation

“Cowessess First Nation has progressed on addressing the technical and research areas when it comes to validating unmarked graves at the former Marieval Residential School. One challenge remains as to a position directly focused on advocating with the technical and research team. The Special Interlocutor will be that direct contact and advocate to assure Cowessess First Nation attains the end goal of assuring unmarked graves have markers and, with research, names to unmarked graves.”

Chief Cadmus Delorme
Cowessess First Nation

Quick facts

  • The position of Special Interlocutor was created following the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada’s engagement with Indigenous leaders across the country, in which the importance of an Indigenous-led response was reiterated.
  • Budget 2022 proposes important investments to address the shameful legacy of residential schools, including $10.4 million over two years to Justice Canada to support the appointment and work of the Special Interlocutor. This initiative is intended to complement other Budget 2022 proposed investments, including:
    • $209.8 million over five years, starting in 2022-23, to Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada to increase the support provided to communities to document, locate, and memorialize burial sites at former residential schools; to support the operations of and a new building for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation; and to ensure the full disclosure of federal documents related to residential schools, where possible
    • $5.1 million to Public Safety Canada to ensure the Royal Canadian Mounted Police can continue to renew and strengthen existing relationships between the National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains (NCMPUR), Indigenous communities and police agencies in providing support in missing persons and unidentified remains investigations
    • $25 million over three years, starting in 2022-23, to Library and Archives Canada to support the digitization of millions of documents relating to the federal Day School System, which will ensure Survivors and all Canadians have meaningful access to them
    • $25 million over three years, starting in 2022-23, to Parks Canada to support the commemoration and memorialization of former residential schools sites

Related products

Associated links

Contacts

For more information, media may contact:

Chantalle Aubertin
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
613-992-6568

Media Relations
Department of Justice Canada
613-957-4207
[email protected]

Justine Leblanc
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations
[email protected]

Media Relations
Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada
819-934-2302
[email protected]

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