The creation of a new advisory committee on Residential Schools will help Indigenous communities across the country deal with the issues involved with searching for their children that never came home – and a forensic pathologist with ties to Kahnawake will hep the do that.
Dr. Kona Williams – whose mother is from Kahnawake – is part of the 10-person committee, which will provide expertise, advice, guidance and professional services to communities hoping to continue the search for their loved ones.
As one the only Indigenous forensic pathologists in Canada, Williams will provide advice on exhuming potential remains from around former Residential Schools properties.
Since the discovery of the 215 children around the former Kamloops Residential School in B.C. last year, the government promised to create such a committee. Williams said it’s important work because of ties to the situation and the knowledge that communities would like to, once and for all, figure out what happened to their children who never came home.
“There are many communities interested in finding their children and it has to happen carefully. If I am needed, I will make myself available to advise communities on how best to proceed. This is an issue that’s important to me because my father went to Residential School, my mom went to Day School and my grandparents went to Residential School,” she said.
Williams figures she will be working hand-in-hand with cultural anthropologists in the search for the missing children.
“Because it’s Indigenous-led and I have the expertise to be able to advise communities, I will be making myself available to help them,” she said.
The committee held its first meeting July 19.
The director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation said the committee will hopefully allow many of the children who never came home the dignity of a final commemoration.
“Too many children were denied the final dignity of being laid to rest according to their own customs and traditions,” said Stephanie Scott. “Too many families and communities have never been able to find their loved ones who didn't come home from Residential School. I have had conversations with countless First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation communities who are grappling with difficult questions about how they can find and honour their lost children. This committee will help meet a crucial need for advice that is comprehensive, up-to-date and above all else trustworthy. It will be part of the important healing journey to honour the little ones.”
Federal Crown-Indigenous Relations minister Marc Miller said the important work must and will continue as communities search for their missing kids.
“The National Advisory Committee on Residential Schools Missing Children and Unmarked Burials will provide a wide range of expertise to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis. As Indigenous communities undertake the difficult and essential work to locate and commemorate burial sites at former Residential Schools, the National Advisory Committee will ensure Indigenous-led and culturally sensitive technical advice is available to support their work. We are committed to addressing the harms done and the abuse of Indigenous children, to support communities as they work towards healing.”
Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Iori:wase