Canada and Province of British Columbia support Williams Lake First Nation’s research and commemoration activities at former residential school

Taking care: We recognize that this news release may contain information that is difficult for many and that our efforts to honour Survivors and families may act as an unwelcome reminder for those who have suffered hardships through generations of government policies that were harmful to Indigenous Peoples.

A National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available to provide support to former residential school students, who can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-Hour National Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.

There is also the Hope for Wellness Help Line for Indigenous Peoples at 1-855-242-3310 or through the online chat via the help line website at

January 7, 2022 — Williams Lake First Nation, British Columbia — Crown–Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada

The locating of unmarked graves at former residential school sites across Canada is a tragic reminder of the abuse Indigenous children suffered in those institutions. As part of efforts to address historical wrongs and the lasting physical, emotional, mental and spiritual harms related to the legacy of residential schools, our government is working with Survivors, Indigenous leaders, and affected families and communities, including Williams Lake First Nation. Together, we will undertake the difficult work of finding and commemorating missing children who were taken from their families to attend residential schools, such as the former St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School.

Williams Lake First Nation will undertake work related to burial sites associated with the former St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School. The community is currently completing a preliminary investigation that includes interviews with former students and their families, an initial geophysical survey, and the compilation of archival and photographic records related to the disappearances and deaths of First Nations students at this institution. Today, Chief Willie Sellars of Williams Lake First Nation in British Columbia; the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Crown–Indigenous Relations; and Murray Rankin, British Columbia Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, announced funding totalling $1,912,460 for fiscal year 2021–22 to contribute to this important work.

Additionally, work will begin to support bringing Elders and Survivors together to conduct interviews and share knowledge on unmarked graves, and to gather, plan and host cultural ceremonies within their community. This community-led process will ensure that Williams Lake First Nation can undertake this work in their own way and at their own pace.

Addressing the harms suffered by Survivors, their families and communities is at the heart of reconciliation and is essential to renew and rebuild relationships with Indigenous Peoples, governments and all Canadians.

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