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June 30, 2021
The Hon. Cameron Friesen
Minister of Justice and Attorney General
104 Legislative Building
Winnipeg, MB R3C 0V8
The Hon. Eileen Clarke
Minister of Indigenous and Northern Relations
301 Legislative Building
Winnipeg, MB R3C 0V8
RE: Manitoba Support for MKO Path Forward for Investigations of Former Indian Residential School Sites
Dear Minister Friesen and Minister Clarke:
On May 27, 2021, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc issued a press release which revealed that a search with ground penetrating radar confirmed the locations of the remains of 215 children who were students of the Kamloops Indian Residential School.
On June 3, 2021 I wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and to Minister of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti to request that the Attorney General “immediately commence an investigation with the objective of determining the basis for prosecution under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act” regarding the discovery of the remains of 215 children who were students of the Kamloops Indian Residential School (IRS) (attached).
During a press conference on June 9, 2021 that was hosted by Winnipeg Centre Member of Parliament Leah Gazan, MKO outlined and recommended seven initial elements of an MKO Path Forward for the Investigations of Former Indian Residential School Sites.
I am writing to share and to seek your support for and urgent engagement with the MKO First Nations and MKO in operationalizing the seven initial elements of the MKO Path Forward for the Investigations of Former Indian Residential School Sites. MKO is requesting that Manitoba:
- Provide support for and seek a report regarding the status of the actions of the Prime Minister and the Attorney General of Canada in response to the MKO letter of June 3, 2021;
- Support MKO’s recommendation and ensure that any searches at former IRS sites and any found burial sites at IRS sites are and will remain under the control and guidance of First Nation Elders and Knowledge Keepers and to be protected in accordance with the Customary Laws, protocols and practices of each First Nation.
- Support MKO’s recommendation and ensure that any search for additional burials at former Indian Residential School sites and any investigations of the circumstances must not be conducted by the RCMP, as the RCMP were an integral part of the Indian Residential Schools system.
- Support MKO’s recommendation and ensure that investigations of these sites will be carried out by an Indigenous Police Service or other independent investigative entity that is selected by and with the approval of the affected First Nations.
- Support MKO’s recommendation and call on the provincial Ministers of Justice to work with the First Nations in each province to ensure that any site that is designated as a crime scene is placed under the control of the investigating Indigenous Police Service or independent investigators.
- Support MKO’s recommendation and ensure agreements are urgently arrived at between First Nations and the federal and provincial governments to ensure that all of the remains of our children are repatriated to their home communities according to the wishes and protocols of their families and communities.
- Support MKO’s recommendation and pursue new legislation similar to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of the United States, known as NAGPRA, to ensure and to require the protection, control and repatriation of the remains of our children and all First Nation remains and grave goods wherever they are found or are presently located.
As to MKO recommendation number 3, 4 and 5, above, the authority of the Minister to designate an investigative authority other than the RCMP is found at s. 20 of the Police Services Act:
Ministerial assignment of investigation
20 Despite any other provision in this Act, if the minister considers it to be in the interests of the administration of justice, he or she may assign the conduct of an investigation into an alleged offence that would normally be conducted by a police service or the independent investigation unit to members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or members of another police service in Manitoba or another Canadian province.
Section 20 of the Police Services Act is also reflected in and consistent with Section 6.4 of the Manitoba Provincial Police Service Agreement.
Further as to MKO recommendation numbers 3, 4 and 5, above, MKO is presently working to identify a list of potential Indigenous Police Services or other independent investigative entities to conduct any investigations of the circumstances of the discovery of the remains of children at former Indian Residential School sites.
As to MKO recommendation number 6, above, the pathway to developing such agreements with all affected First Nations is found in the Agreement for a Protocol for the Protection of Heritage Resources and Aboriginal Human Remains Related to the Wuskwatim Generating Project, dated August 11, 2006 (attached).
As to MKO recommendation number 7, above, more about the legislative pathway to the enactment by Manitoba and Canada of complimentary legislation similar to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of the United States, known as NAGPRA, can be found at the following link: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nagpra/index.htm\
Please contact Mark Sweeny, Assistant to the Grand Chief, at [email protected] or (431) 275-2428, to discuss the earliest operationalizing of these requests.
Grand Chief Garrison Settee
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc.
cc. MKO Executive Council
MKO First Nations
The Hon. Dan Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs
The Hon. Bill, Blair, Minister of Public Safety
The Hon. Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services
The Hon. David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General
The Hon. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations
Michael Anderson, MKO Policing and Public Safety Advisor