Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc to receive $12.5M in funding for new healing centre

A monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the children whose unmarked graves are believed to be on the site.  (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
A monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the children whose unmarked graves are believed to be on the site. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

The Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation will receive $12.5 million in federal funding toward the construction of a new healing centre for the community, nearly two years after suspected grave sites were discovered at a former residential school, leaders have announced.

A joint statement Thursday said the new healing house will provide trauma-informed programs to help the community spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically. The nation said an architect has already been chosen to lead the project.

"The legacy of residential schools is one that has tried to take our culture, language, and identity from us, causing profound damage. The healing house will provide culturally appropriate supports that will help to address these long-standing impacts," Kúkpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir wrote in the statement.

"It will support healing for our survivors and those impacted by Kamloops Indian Residential School, leading to healthier futures for our children and those not yet born."

The nation announced in May 2021 that ground-penetrating radar had located the suspected grave sites in an old apple orchard at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, which operated for more than 80 years.

The discovery confirmed survivors' stories and sparked a national reckoning about residential schools in Canada.

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

During a visit to the community that October, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Ottawa would help fund a local healing centre. The federal government has also committed up to $1.5 million to assess whether the residential school building can be renovated, as the community has decided to preserve the structure to ensure "its history is never forgotten."

"The community of Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc led the way in opening the nation's eyes to the truths that were always known by Indigenous Peoples. Now, Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc paves the way in showing what is possible along the healing journey," wrote federal Minister of Indigenous Services Patty Hajdu.

"Canada will continue to support the survivors, their families and the affected communities through their healing journeys, on their own terms."

The federal funding is in addition to funding already committed by the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA).

The authority contributed $2.5 million to help address intergenerational harms after the announcement in 2021, as well as a further $1.3 million to establish the healing centre.

History of abuse at former institution

Kamloops Indian Residential School operated between 1890 and 1969, when the federal government took over operations from the Catholic Church and ran it as a day school until it closed in 1978.

A 4,000-page report by the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 detailed harsh mistreatment at the schools, including emotional, physical and sexual abuse of children, as well as at least 4,100 deaths at the institutions across Canada.

The report cited records of at least 51 children dying at the Kamloops school between 1914 and 1963.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools or by the latest reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

Do you have information about unmarked graves, children who never came home or residential school staff and operations? Email your tips to CBC's new Indigenous-led team investigating residential schools: