A ministry that ran all three residential schools that have the made news across the country for its hundreds of unmarked graves will be working with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR).
The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate's Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate's OMI Lacombe Canada and Notre‐Dame‐du‐Cap ran residential schools across Canada, including Kamloops Indian Residential School, Marieval Indian Residential School in Cowessess First Nation, and St. Eugene’s Mission School. It was announced in the past month that all three schools had graves on their properties, with over a thousand estimated graves, most of which children. Now, they say they will be working with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) to assure they have all of the Oblates' records.
“Consistent with the spirit and intent of the Settlement Agreement, we are relieved by the efforts being made by the Oblates to make their records available so Indigenous communities can move one step closer to healing," NCTR Executive Director Stephanie Scott says in a joint statement. "There is an arduous road ahead as communities search former sites and work to identify the loved ones who were found in these unmarked graves. Access to all relevant residential school records is an essential component in this process."
Privacy concerns have previously been named by the Oblates as to why they were not giving the NCTR residential school records. The Oblates have previously given more than 40,000 records to the NCTR as part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's mandates in their calls to action.
“While privacy concerns have been cited around the transfer of these records, the National Research Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Act of Manitoba facilitates the collection of information and records to fulfil the mandate of the NCTR and ensures the appropriate protection of privacy. Provincial and Federal privacy laws are not a barrier for the transfer of records to the NCTR,” Scott says.
Fr. Ken Thorson from the Oblates says they are going through their archives to see what is and is not yet digitized of its staff files, photographs, and other records. he says they will hire staff if needed, saying it is their responsibility to give the records to the NCTR.
"The deaths of these children were never meant to remain hidden, and the burden should not remain on the Indigenous communities to piece together this part of our collective history. All Canadians, governments, and institutions have a role in dignifying and remembering these little ones who perished and never returned home," Thorson says.
NCTR houses over five million records, including close to seven thousand Survivor statements. It is one of the only archives in the world with a spiritual guide, due to the distressing content in the archives.
For Residential School Survivors in need of support, the Residential School crisis line is 1-866-925-4419.