International group asks to be given a chance on unmarked graves contract
OTTAWA — The head of an international organization Ottawa hired to give advice on identifying possible remains in unmarked graves at former residential schools says to give its coming work a chance.
The federal government's decision to hire the Netherlands-based International Commission on Missing Persons to engage with Indigenous communities has been met with concerns, including that the $2-million contract appears to duplicate Indigenous experts were already taking on.
Kathryne Bomberger, the director-general of the organization, says it is just starting out and plans to adjust the timeline laid out in a technical agreement, which was recently made public.
Sheila North, a Cree leader in Manitoba who the commission says is assisting as a program manager, says she sees its work as being different and called for by several communities.
North also says while there may be a "perceived conflict of interest" stemming from the federal government's role in the arrangement and it having funded the church-run residential school system, she says the commission's work will be independent.
North, who views herself as a someone who will act as a helper to communities, says she was brought on to ensure their work was informed by Indigenous knowledge and protocol.
That had been among the concerns others raised about the agreement, including by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 22, 2023.
The Canadian Press