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Trent University Historian John Milloy Gets Green Light to Unearth Stories of Residential School Children Who Never Went Home


Friday, December 5, 2008, Peterborough

Trent University history professor Dr. John Milloy has received approval from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to carry out an extensive research project that aims to reveal what actually happened to the children who did not survive Canada’s residential school system.

Professor Milloy, author of A National Crime, the Canadian Government and the Residential School System 1879 to 1986, was an adviser to the working group of church, Aboriginal and federal government representatives that has laid out for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission a plan for filling in gaps in information about how many children died, what they died of and where they are buried.

For Prof. Milloy, it is imperative that the legacy of the residential school system be put in proper historical perspective.

While the exact timing of the project is still being determined, Prof. Milloy explained that the research will be undertaken by independent Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal historians and archivists so there is no perception of real or imagined political taint to the findings. He hopes that through this dedicated effort, the living survivors will share -- orally or in writing -- what they know about the deaths and burials of former classmates, many of whom ended up in unmarked graves dug by fellow students on the grounds of the schools that they attended.

Once the graveyards and burial grounds are located and documented, the working group's plan envisions traditional aboriginal ceremonies being conducted at the sites to "ask the spirits of the missing children" to return home to their communities. The second

phase of the massive research project is more ambitious and complicated because it will require Canada's provinces to open up confidential and sensitive files.

oals of this project - identifying those who died in the schools or who went and remain missing, as well as documenting the burial grounds and those children buried there – have a very high priority with residential school survivors and the families and communities of the dead and disappeared,” explained Prof. Milloy. “A thorough and transparent review of all documentation held by the government and the churches as well as a respectful process of collecting the oral record will not only bring closure to many but will symbolize the willingness of Canada to expose the truth fully and will be therefore an important contribution to reconciliation.”


For further information, please contact Professor John Milloy at (705) 760-4626.