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

·9 min read

OTTAWA, ON, June 8, 2022 /CNW/ -

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:

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Backgrounder

Mandate of the Independent Special Interlocutor for Missing Children and Unmarked Graves and Burial Sites associated with Indian Residential Schools

On June 8, 2022, Kimberly Murray was appointed as Independent Special Interlocutor for Missing Children and Unmarked Graves and Burial Sites associated with Indian Residential Schools.

The Special Interlocutor's mandate will be carried out over two years, from June 14, 2022, to June 13, 2024.

Mandate

The Special Interlocutor will identify needed measures and make recommendations for a new federal legal framework to ensure the respectful and culturally appropriate treatment of unmarked graves and burial sites of children associated with former residential schools. This will be done in close collaboration with First Nations, Inuit and Métis governments, representative organizations, communities, Survivors and families, other departments of the Government of Canada, provinces and territories, and other relevant institutions such as church entities and record holders.

The Special Interlocutor will function independently and impartially, in a non-partisan and transparent manner to achieve the objectives of her mandate.

The work of the Special Interlocutor will be to:

  • 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

  • examine the existing federal, provincial and territorial laws, regulations, tools and practices that currently apply and have applied to protect unmarked graves and burial sites connected to former residential schools, as well as applicable Indigenous laws and protocols, in order to develop a description of the current legal framework

  • identify areas of improvement in Canadian law and make recommendations for a new federal legal framework to identify, protect, and preserve unmarked burial sites connected to former residential schools and lands associated with the schools

Reporting

The Special Interlocutor will deliver:

  • an interim report at the end of the first year, where the Special Interlocutor will describe her work and progress to date in relation to her mandate, and

  • a final report at the end of the second year, where the Special Interlocutor will share her recommendations on needed measures relating to federal laws, regulations, policies and practices surrounding unmarked graves and burial sites associated with former residential schools.

These reports will be concurrently delivered to the Minister of Justice and to First Nations, Métis and Inuit Survivors, families, leaders and communities, and to the public.

All reports will describe the engagement process, including the identification of elements that could inform future initiatives or a new approach to engagement on issues of common concern to the federal government and First Nations, Inuit and Métis.

Additional information

For more detailed information on the Special Interlocutor's mandate, including a list of specific objectives to achieve, please consult Justice Canada's website.

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, media@justice.gc.ca; Justine Leblanc, Press Secretary, Office of the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, justine.leblanc@rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca; Media Relations, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, 819-934-2302, RCAANC.Media.CIRNAC@sac-isc.gc.ca

SOURCE Department of Justice Canada

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View original content: http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/June2022/08/c7994.html