Ontario's $1.3M contribution for search at former Mohawk Institute much less than survivors asked for

·2 min read
A drone shot of the Woodland Cultural Centre, the former Mohawk Institute Residential School, in Brantford, Ont. The team leading a ground search there got $1.3 million from the province — much less than it had hoped for. (Sue Reid/CBC - image credit)
A drone shot of the Woodland Cultural Centre, the former Mohawk Institute Residential School, in Brantford, Ont. The team leading a ground search there got $1.3 million from the province — much less than it had hoped for. (Sue Reid/CBC - image credit)

The group overseeing the search for potential unmarked graves at the site of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford, Ont., is getting $1.3 million from Ontario, a fraction of the $9 million initially requested.

The provincial funding to the Survivors' Secretariat at Six Nations of the Grand River will cover three years, according to secretariat spokesperson Tabitha Curley.

The secretariat has received $1 million so far, said Curley.

The funding announcement was made Tuesday, the same day the Archbishop of Canterbury reiterated an apology for residential schools in Toronto.

The search on the grounds where the Woodland Cultural Centre now stands began in November after Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation's preliminary search in Kamloops, B.C., last May detected 215 potential graves.

The Mohawk Institute, one of the oldest and longest-running residential schools in Canada, opened in 1828 and closed in 1970.

Some 15,000 students from 20 First Nation communities were at the school. Many had been abducted from their homes and abused.

Records indicate there were 54 deaths, but local police services said they didn't know where they were buried.

Search may last longer, cost more

Before Tuesday's funding announcement, Kimberly Murray, the secretariat's executive lead, said the province had offered $400,000 over three years before offering $700,000 over three years in January.

Curley said even the $9 million may not be enough.

"The search may last longer and the budget may grow as the secretariat continues to identify more and more sites of interest."

Flavia Mussio, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs, said $1.3 million is the "first step in Ontario's commitment" to help survivors get answers.

Mussio said the province will keep working with Six Nations and the secretariat.

The team carrying out the ground search at Mohawk Institute previously said they had covered almost four hectares, focusing on the area around the former residential school building. The property is roughly 243 hectares.

The search also stopped in the winter due to the weather. It's unclear if the work has resumed.

Diane Hill, a board member of the secretariat, said in a news release she hopes the province's funding is a step forward.

"This is important work, sacred work. We have not had the healthiest of relations [and] we hope this changes moving forward. We remind Ontario we need answers. That is what matters."

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