National TRC centre stops in Montreal to discuss children who went missing or died in residential schools

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to date has identified 4,300 students who died in Indian residential schools.

The centre suspects that number is much higher.

“Personally, I know three children, you know, they were young, that died in those schools,” said survivor Kenneth Weistche.

Weistche is Cree from the Waskaganish First Nation in northern Quebec and spent 12 years in four different residential schools.

He is at the meeting to learn more about the centre’s memorial register project.

“This is a digital memorial or database where folks can go visit the website,” said Kaila Johnston. Manager of outreach and education for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

“And find information about each student that passed away or went missing during their care under residential school authority members.”

The centre is working towards fulfilling TRC call to action number 72.

At the moment, it’s in the midst of a national tour to consult with survivors and family members about what information the online registry should contain – and who should have access to it.

Weistche for one said that it’s important for non-Indigenous people to see faces and names, not just hear numbers when it comes to residential school deaths.

“Share the information with the public, about how these children died,” he said.

“That would be closure for all these cases.”

Johnston says about half the people she’s heard from agree with Weistche.

But just as many are worried about privacy.

“The other half are concerned, as they should be, on researchers and media getting access to that information,” she said.

“Because there is very sensitive information contained in that database on how these children passed away and where they’re located.”

The centre will be consulting at Eskasoni First Nation in Nova Scotia next week.

The registry is scheduled to go online in March 2019.

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