Winnipeg Mayor calls for site search at former city residential school
WINNIPEG -- Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman is calling for a search of the grounds at a former residential school in the city.
A motion put forth by Bowman to the City of Winnipeg’s executive policy committee passed unanimously Wednesday, directing the public service to prioritize searching the grounds around the former Assiniboia Indian Residential School and other sites as appropriate.
“Make no mistake about it. If other levels of government won’t act, I want to see our level of government act,” said Bowman. “To do what’s right, what’s just, and what’s respectful to residential school survivors,” said Bowman.
The motion comes in light of the discovery of the remains of 215 children at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
The Assiniboia Indian Residential School, located at 615 Academy Road, is now home the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. The school – along with Wellington Park which was part of its property – was operational from 1958 to 1973.
Lionel Mason, a high school student from St. Theresa Point, lived at the former Assiniboia Indian Residential School site.
“All of us were pretty lonesome, because all of us were away from home," Mason said.
Mason said he thinks the odds of bodies being buried at the former school site in Winnipeg are low, but said he isn't certain.
He believes all school sites should be checked.
"A lot of people went missing, a lot of kids went missing," he said.
In 2016, the city created a working group to enact the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 75.
It calls on the federal government to work with provincial and community partners to develop strategies and procedures for the identification, protection and commemoration of residential school cemeteries or other sites where residential school children were buried.
Bowman said the group has been in contact with the Assiniboia Residential School Legacy Group regarding commemoration and the City Archives has conducted research into children who may have been buried at city sites. There have been no discoveries so far.
The city’s cemetery branch has also conducted reviews in St. Vital and Brookside cemeteries but no work on the grounds of the residential school has been done.
Councillor Matt Allard supported Bowman’s motion and expressed interest in expanding the search area to include the grounds of St. Boniface Industrial School.
“I think it’s incredibly important that Winnipeggers and residential school survivors know that this is something that we are working on,” said Bowman.
During the motion’s introduction at committee Bowman praised Ontario and Alberta premiers Doug Ford and Jason Kenney. Ford announced $10 million in funding Wednesday to identity, investigate and commemorate residential school burial sites in the province while Kenney is working on a multi-million-dollar package.
Manitoba has not committed money to look at all 14 known locations in this province.
“Our stance was never against putting money towards it, we’re partnering with the federal government and First Nations communities already on a couple of projects," Pallister said on Tuesday.
The motion also calls for continuing work on the TRC’s Call to Action 75. All work undertaken will be done in consultation with First Nations and other affected groups.
The report will be sent back to EPC once it is completed.