A woman takes a picture of the memorial outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School June 6, 2021. CNS photo/Jennifer Gauthier, Reuters

Oblates to open more residential school records

  • March 22, 2022

As three separate Indigenous delegations head to Rome for meetings with Pope Francis on March 28, March 31 and April 1, Canada’s Oblate Fathers have announced a deal with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to make more residential school records available, including material that may be archived in Rome and Paris.

“These types of records are a critical component of the process that communities are currently undertaking to search former residential school sites, and may help to better understand the historical context of unmarked graves,” the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate said in a March 22 release.

The Oblates have already provided more than 40,000 records to the NCTR, a national repository for primary source material and historical research into the residential schools set up in the wake of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The issue of access to records has haunted reconciliation work for years. Many of the delegates who will be in Rome have vowed to bring up the issue with Pope Francis.

“We've got to go back to the source of how we've been treated in Canada by all the institutions,” Dene Chief Norman Yakeleya told reporters in an online press conference Nov. 25. Yakeleya will lead the Assembly of First Nations delegation in Rome.

The Oblates have hired additional archivists to speed up the process of digitizing hand written records in French, Latin and English known as the Codex Historicus. The religious order is also arranging an initial visit to the Oblates’ Rome archives by NCTR head archivist Raymond Frogner this spring.

The Oblates ran 48 different residential schools, the majority of the 60 to 70 per cent of residential schools that were under Catholic control. The Oblate schools included the Marieval Indian Residential School in Cowessess First Nation and the Kamloops Indian Residential School in the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, among others where unmarked graves have been identified by ground-penetrating radar.

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