Trudeau faces mounting calls for independent probe of residential school deaths

·1 min read

OTTAWA — As calls mount for the federal Liberals to do more to support Indigenous communities calling for independent investigations into deaths of children at residential schools, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged Friday Ottawa would do "do what is necessary."

But he would not say exactly what that would look like, nor would he give a dollar figure beyond the previously announced $27 million allocated in 2019 to help identify and investigate burial grounds near residential schools.

Trudeau's comments come as the country continues to react in horror and grief over the discovery of two unmarked sites adjacent to former residential institutions in Saskatchewan and British Columbia where the remains of hundreds of children are believed to have been buried.

Trudeau says the federal government will put Indigenous Peoples and their wishes at the core of what Ottawa will do next when it comes to supporting efforts to identify the buried children and search other former school sites for hidden burial grounds.

But when asked about direct calls from Indigenous leaders for an independent probe — including from Murray Sinclair, former chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as well as Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron — Trudeau remained vague.

He said the federal government will be alongside these and other Indigenous leaders "every step of the way, as needed" and pointed to investments his government has made in a number of areas on Indigenous reconciliation efforts.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 25, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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