The province will contribute $1.3 million to search the grounds of the former Mohawk Institute residential school in Brantford for potential unmarked graves.
That is well short of the $9 million requested by Six Nations of the Grand River elected Chief Mark Hill last fall on behalf of the survivors’ secretariat leading the ground search.
But it is more than the $400,000 over three years the province initially offered, and a spokesperson for the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs said this money is a “first step” in what will be a multi-year project.
“Our government is committed to supporting the survivors’ secretariat’s complex work to uncover, document and share the truth about what happened at the Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School,” Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford said in a statement.
Ministry spokesperson Flavia Musso said the funding would support the early stages of the search by helping survivors gather documentation, buy needed equipment and liaise with technical experts in ground-penetrating radar.
Survivors plan to search some 600 acres around the former school. The property is managed by the Woodland Cultural Centre, which recently completed a $23.5-million fundraising campaign to restore and reopen the Mohawk Institute as an interpretive centre.
“This is important work, sacred work,” survivors’ secretariat board member Diane Hill said of the search for potential victims of the residential school, which was run by the government of Canada and the Anglican Church from 1885 to 1970.
“We have not had the healthiest of relations. We hope this changes moving forward,” Hill said.
“We remind Ontario we need answers. That is what matters.”
On Tuesday, the same day the funding was announced, the Archbishop of Canterbury apologized to representatives of Six Nations for the church’s role in the residential school system during a private meeting in Toronto.
It was the third formal apology made by Archbishop Justin Welby during his visit to Canada.
J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator