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Federal government announces funding to help IRC find children lost to residential schools

Grollier Hall, Stringer Hall and the old residential schools in Inuvik. Ottawa is contributing $854,437 to help the Inuvialuit Regional Corpartion find its children who disappeared in the residential schools of the Beaufort Delta. Contributed photo

Editor’s note: This story includes details that some readers may find disturbing.

Across the Beaufort Delta, there are many people who will tell stories of relatives who would leave home on a boat to a residential school, never to return home.

Now, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation is planning to find those children and mark their resting places.

Following closed-door meetings on March 6 in Inuvik, the federal government announced it is providing $854,437 in funding over two years to support the “Inuvialuit Residential Schools Missing Children Initiative to Locate, Document and Memorialize Burial Sites.” That’s the IRC’s ongoing effort to research attendance at nine former residential schools, those being Shingle Point in Yukon, and, in the NWT, Hay River Anglican, All Saints, Fort McPherson, Grollier Hall, Stringer Hall, Akaitcho Hall, Grandin College and Breynat Hall.

“The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation is doing difficult but critically important work, on the ground, in their communities, to dismantle the legacy of colonialism and its ongoing impact,” said Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Gary Anandasangaree. “In partnership with the IRC, we will continue to support them in undertaking this solemn work to find the children who did not return from residential schools, to recognize Inuvialuit rights, to modernize our treaty relationship, and to ensure moving forward there is a safe space for Inuvik Indigenous women, children and gender diverse people as we work to put an end to this ongoing national crisis.”

Funding will be used to “conduct research, knowledge gathering, commemoration and community engagement work.”

As part of the announcement, the federal government will be assisting in the funding of an Inuvialuit-run emergency shelter through an $85 million program currently in operation. The Inuvialuit Family Wellness Centre will provide a refuge for Indigenous women and girls escaping domestic violence and give them a place to access culturally relevant programming to get their life back on track.

Both the IRC and federal government also signed a memorandum of understanding “to advance reconciliation and renew their Inuit-Crown relationship.”

“Forty years ago, the Inuvialuit Final Agreement created space for Inuvialuit to exercise our inherent right to care for our families, our communities and our region,” said IRC Chair and CEO Duane Ningaqsiq Smith. “It was a sworn commitment undertaken by Canada and Inuvialuit together. Today, we are demonstrating what can be achieved through a partnership based on mutual respect, creative foresight and a willingness to learn from each other.

“For example, working directly with us on critical infrastructure projects, many federal departments have come to understand higher cost of construction in the North and the need to account for this at the planning stage,” Ningaqsiq Smith added. “We are hopeful that this learning will reach all departments so that we can continue our good work. Our collaborations will help heal wounds so that our families can move forward, help end the transmission of violence from one generation to the next, and help Inuvialuit and Canada continue our essential work with confidence.”

Funding for the IRC’s efforts is provided through a $122-million federal program intended to help Indigenous, Inuit, Metis and First Nations locate children lost to the residential school system over three years.