Premier Sandy Silver and Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief Peter Johnston at the Yukon Forum in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Premier Sandy Silver and Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief Peter Johnston at the Yukon Forum in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Yukon government commits to financing examination of residential school sites

“We’re going to let the communities give us direction.”

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver said his government will fund the examining of local residential school sites, if requested.

“We’re not waiting for the federal government. We will invest the resources necessary,” Silver said on June 4.

Silver made his statements following the Yukon Forum, the regular standing meeting between the Yukon government and First Nations leaders.

Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief Peter Johnston said there is no timeline for the discussions. The government will let First Nations communities and families set the pace and make decisions.

“We’re going to let the communities give us direction. We are more than willing — and have commitment from the premier as well — to support whatever needs to be done. This is very sensitive to a number of families and individuals. So we need to deal with this accordingly,” Johnston said.

Carcross/Tagish First Nation released a statement on May 31 acknowledging the discovery of the 215 children in Kamloops and echoing calls for a full investigation into residential school sites.

The Choutla Residential School was located in Carcross and was operated by the Anglican Church from 1903 to 1969. The main school building was demolished in the mid-1980s.

The Roman Catholic Church operated a school in Lower Post, B.C., from 1951 to 1975. The building is set to be demolished on June 21.

“In the Yukon context, I don’t think it is as lengthy a process, because we’re quite aware of where the residential schools were held. So I think it’s not going to take a long time. However where there’s situations very similar to Kamloops then it does add some complexity to the whole process because there needs to be this recognition of ceremony,” said Johnston.

“This is a discovery that we will do together and the nations that are particularly affected by this, such as C/TFN, and the Daylu Dena Council in Lower Post, they will be leaders in this movement going forward out of respect for their traditional territories,” he said.

Johnston said the news of the 215 children found buried at the Kamloops Indian Residential School has hit many communities hard. He called on the Catholic Church to issue a full apology and release records.

He acknowledged there was some potential that Yukon First Nation children attended the school in Kamloops and said fact-finding and phone calls to investigate the possibility were underway.

“We’ve been devastated even though we’re 2,000 miles away from Kamloops,” he said.

The Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-721-0066.

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

Contact Haley Ritchie at haley.ritchie@yukon-news.com

Yukon First Nations

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