NCTR says provinces, territories should follow Ontario’s lead and release death records

NCTR

A sea of stuffed animals and shoes on Parliament Hill in honour of the children who died while being forced to attend residential schools. Photo: APTN.


The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) is calling on provincial and territorial governments to follow Ontario’s lead and release death records associated with the country’s residential schools.

The call comes after Ontario agreed Wednesday to transfer 1,800 death records of Indigenous children to the NCTR.

According to the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), more than 4,000 First Nation, Inuit and Métis children perished in what the federal government called schools – but were actually thinly veiled institutions aimed at assimilating Indigenous children.

The TRC said in the end it may never be known exactly how many children died in the schools.

First Nations communities across the country are currently searching for unmarked graves. On May 27, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation announced that it had confirmed the location of 215 unmarked graves possibly associated with the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

Other searches in Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan also located unmarked graves.

Ontario’s decision to transfer the records follows TRC call to action 71 which “calls upon all chief coroners and provincial statistics agencies to provide records on the deaths of Indigenous children in the area of residential schools.”

Negotiations to arrange a safe transfer of the records began six years ago, the NCTR said Tuesday.

The NCTR also said in a release that Ontario is complying with calls to action 77 to “transfer all provincial records that documented residential school histories.”

According to the NCTR, not all provincial and territorial governments are complying with the TRC’s recommendations.

“While the Centre has not yet received any coroner’s reports from any of the provinces, the NCTR has received all death certificates from British Columbia and Alberta, and some records from Yukon and Nova Scotia,” it said.

The records that have been received are putting up “challenges” in terms of analyzing the data because “record-keeping processes vary by government,” the NCTR added, “which may pose a challenge in processing and analyzing data; death certificates may not include information about whether a child attended a residential school, or the child’s Indigenous name is rarely found on the death record.”

The move by Ontario comes after the federal government said it would go back into its files to ensure all data has been handed over to the NCTR.

On Oct. 19, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said wrongly all documents in his government’s possession related to residential schools had been turned over. Almost immediately, the NCTR issued a statement saying this was not the case.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, a search is now underway within the federal government.