The Hague, 17 February 2023: The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), which is an independent, treaty-based international organization, will provide support to Residential School Survivors and Indigenous communities in Canada to formulate next steps in addressing the issue of unmarked burials at Residential Schools. ICMP’s support follows a request for assistance by members of Canada’s Indigenous Community and a Technical Arrangement signed with the Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC).
Tens of thousands of Indigenous children were removed from their families and sent to Residential Schools in the late 19th century and much of the 20th century. The schools, often characterized by an environment of systemic abuse, were predicated on eradicating Indigenous culture. Thousands of children died and went missing while attending these schools. Those that died were often buried in unofficial cemeteries or unmarked burial sites and their identities may be unknown.
ICMP will conduct information sessions and a country-wide outreach campaign for Indigenous communities that wish to explore options for identifying and repatriating remains of missing loved ones from unmarked burial sites associated with former Residential Schools. As part of this project, ICMP will draft a report that examines future strategies for repatriation respecting the local knowledge and information provided by Indigenous communities who participated in the process. To ensure that this process and the report incorporate Indigenous knowledge and that activities are respectful of Indigenous protocols, the project will be Indigenous led and Indigenous facilitators will lead each step of the process.
“The families are central to addressing the issue of missing children and unmarked burials,” ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger said today. “Their needs and their knowledge must lead the way. ICMP will work with Indigenous communities across Canada to explore options for a strategy to address the diversity of perspectives surrounding possible identification and repatriation processes.”
The Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, said, “The destructive legacy of the Residential School system continues to impact Indigenous peoples across the nation. The full details of the unmarked graves located at many Residential Schools are still not known. The support of ICMP is necessary to rebuild our trust and relationship with Indigenous peoples, communities, and organizations, and is an important step toward reconciliation.”
ICMP is a treaty-based intergovernmental organization with Headquarters in The Hague, the Netherlands. Its mandate is to secure the cooperation of governments and others in locating missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, migration and other causes and to assist them in doing so ICMP also supports the work of other organizations in their efforts, encourages public involvement in its activities and contributes to the development of appropriate expressions of commemoration and tribute to the missing.
About the Technical Arrangement
The Technical Arrangement between Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) and the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) is subject to amendments, which the Parties may introduce from time to time. To inquire about possible amendments to the Technical Arrangement contact the ICMP at PRESS@ICMP.INT.
The Statement of Work included in annex to the Technical Arrangement does not form part of the Technical Arrangement between PWGSC and ICMP. The Statement of Work and any workplans, timelines and operational provisions referred to therein are indicative and provide guidance on the implementation of activities identified in the Technical Arrangement. The Statement of Work is subject to revision and updates to be agreed between CIRNAC and ICMP over the course of implementation, as needed.