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B.C. approves search funds for 18 residential schools, 3 hospitals

Program includes community mental health services
Witness gathering at the B.C. legislature in response to 215 unmarked graves located at Kamloops residential school, June 8, 2021. (B.C. government photo)

The B.C. government has identified 21 sites for research into the legacy of residential schools set up for Indigenous children who were required to attend for nearly century.

Indigenous Relations Minister Murray Rankin said the $12 million fund announced in late June is being offered for communities near three former “Indian hospital” sites as well as 18 former residential school sites.

Rankin vowed Tuesday that the money will include support for mental health support in communities traumatized by the recent discovery of unmarked graves at Kamloops, Cranbrook, Kuper Island and other former schools, with up to $475,000 available to each in an accessible application process.

“The timing of the grants is fully flexible,” Rankin said July 20. “Communities can proceed on their own time and at their own pace.”

A map released by the province shows grants to research schools that operated between 1863 and 1985 at Tofino, Port Alberni, Anahim Lake, Williams Lake, Chilliwack, Port Simpson, Kamloops, Kitimat, Cranbrook, Penelakut Island, Fraser Lake, Lower Post, Sechelt, Lytton, Mission, Alert Bay and North Vancouver.

The three hospitals identified are Coqualeetza Indian Hospital at Chilliwack, Millar Bay Tuberculosis Hospital at Prince Rupert and Nanaimo Indian Hospital.

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The province announced two Indigenous liaisons for the project, former elected Cowichan Tribes chief Lydia Hwitsum, former chair of the First Nations Health Authority, and Charlene Belleau, former chief of the Esk’etemc First Nation. Belleau described her own experience at St. Joseph’s Mission Indian Residential School in Williams Lake, where she was one of several generations of her family to attend.

“My own great grandfather committed suicide at St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School,” Belleau said. “They buried him there without telling our family. This was during a period of time when flogging was at its worst. They strung our children on poles and lashed them until they passed out.”


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