Today, BC appointed two new First Nations liaisons to assist caretaker communities and provided additional funding to First Nations communities for the investigation into BC residential schools.

Caretaker communities — those with former residential school or hospital sites in or near their communities — can receive up to $475,000 in funding for planning, excavating, DNA testing, and investigations into former residential school or hospital sites.

In total, there were 18 residential school sites and three Indian Hospitals in BC; five of which were on Vancouver Island.

The $12-million fund announced last month to support work at former residential care sites is now open for expressions of interest from caretaker communities.

This funding is meant to “fill in the gaps of the federal funding for residential schools,” according to Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.

“The liaisons will support caretaker communities to make connections with provincial and federal agencies, provide advice to the provincial government on activities related to former residential school and hospital sites, and serve as a crucial communications link between communities and the province,” the BC government said in a press release.

The province said it intends to fast-track the review of funding requests, and that there is no deadline attached to the grants.

An additional $2 million in funding will ensure service providers and survivor support networks, adequate resources for wellness, cultural and mental health needs for Indigenous communities.

First Nations Liaisons

The province has appointed Charlene Belleau and Lydia Hwitsum as First Nations liaisons to caretaker communities.

Charlene Belleau is a member of the Esketemc First Nation in the interior of British Columbia.

She was the first female Chief from 1985 to 1987, and has since returned to serve an additional term as Chief.

In 2005, she began work as the Manager of the Indian Residential Schools Unit of the Assembly of First Nations.

Lydia Hwitsum is a citizen of the Cowichan Nation located in Duncan on Vancouver Island where she previously served four two-year terms as the elected Chief of the Cowichan Tribes.

In the emotional press conference, Belleau delivered a speech touching on her experiences and stories involving residential schools and the Sixties Scoop.

“Today, we stand with former students, survivors, intergenerational survivors and their families,” said Belleau.

“We are ready to support communities as they do the difficult work of honouring the spirits of the children who never came home. I am pleased to take on this role and support leaders, former students of residential schools and their families in their journey to bring truth, justice and healing.”

Hwitsum was not present for the press conference.

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