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Alberta creates $8M grant program for research at former residential school sites

Last Updated Jun 23, 2021 at 8:43 pm MDT

EDMONTON – The province is creating an $8-million grant program to help efforts to uncover unmarked gravesites at Alberta’s residential school sites.

Last month, the province said it would support Indigenous-led research into the undocumented deaths of hundreds of Indigenous children in this province, but gave more details Wednesday.

WATCH: Province to announce funding to support research into residential school burial sites

The Alberta Residential Schools Community Research Grants will go to First Nations and Metis communities that have proposals to research and identify these graves and how to honour them.

“A great deal of work has been done by First Nations and others to help identify remains and undocumented burial sites, but there is much more work that still needs to be done,” Premier Jason Kenney said.

Kenney says the province will also support engagement with elders, use of ground-penetrating radar, commemorative work, and reaching out to experts in the field.

Kenney says while residential schools were established by the federal government, he says Alberta had the largest percentage of schools.

“Finding these resting places and honouring burial sites is a delicate and tragic matter. It is another step in addressing the painful legacy of residential schools and helping families find closure,” said Minister of Indigenous Relations Rick Wilson.

Many sites have been lost to history, but Kenney says that all or most must have graves.

He added the Alberta Government is “leaving no stone unturned,” as they also scour archival records for more evidence on residential school sites.

Chief Billy Morin says there are lingering open wounds, highlighted by the discovery at residential school sites recently, and calls Wednesday’s announcement a good jumping-off point.

Morin says the grant is a good start and he is encouraged by the fact the government is letting Indigenous communities take the lead in the research on such a sensitive topic.

Applications for up to $150,000 are now open and will be accepted until mid-January.

-with files from Tom Ross, Courtney Theriault