The Kenney government’s announcement that the province will fund research into the undocumented deaths and burials of Indigenous children who lived at residential schools in Alberta is a necessary and worthwhile move.
Coming in the wake of the recent discovery of 215 children in an unmarked grave at the Kamloops residential home, the decision to seek out possible similar cases in this province will help ensure that the grim and terrible history of the residential school era is further documented for future generations.
“Finding their graves is a matter of reconciliation and another step toward closure for families,” said Minister of Indigenous Relations Rick Wilson.
While the exact amount of funding has yet to be announced, residents here and across the province will expect that the financial support will be, at very least, commensurate with requirements.
Although no residential schools operated in what is now Mountain View and Red Deer counties, there were schools in central Alberta, including Ermineskin at Maskwacis and at Morley near Cochrane.
The national Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls for governments to work with church and Indigenous leaders to let families know where their children or relatives are buried and to respond to their wishes regarding commemoration of beloved family members.
The official Opposition has come out in support of providing provincial funding.
“Where there is a desire to investigate these sites, the government must stand ready with the resources for those to take place,” said NDP leader Rachel Notley.
More than 4,000 young people, including at least 800 in Alberta, reportedly died after being taken from their home communities and shipped to residential schools, in many cases without their consent.
If, as is suspected, there are many other deaths and burials that have not been documented, it is incumbent on all levels of government to ensure that those wrongs are made right.
Helping fund the search for the burial places of former residential school students in this province is a positive and necessary step that has the support of the community-at-large.
Dan Singleton is an editor with The Albertan