City administrators directed to study potential search of former residential school site

The City of Winnipeg’s next steps toward reconciliation should make a priority of examining the grounds of a former residential school on Academy Road for human remains. 

That’s the view of city council’s executive policy committee, which has directed city administrators to report on how to proceed with a search of the former Assiniboia Indian Residential School grounds in consultation with Indigenous groups and other levels of government. 

The former school operated from 1958-1973 at 615 Academy Rd. behind the former RCMP forensic laboratory. The building is currently home to the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. Immediately north of it is Wellington Park, a large field housing a baseball diamond. 

Mayor Brian Bowman sponsored the EPC motion, which was unanimously supported by all seven committee members.

Bowman appeared to take a swipe at Premier Brian Pallister during the meeting. The pair have had a well-documented strained relationship for many years. 

“I do want to acknowledge (Tuesday) as it would be, a positive announcement by the premier on this matter,” he said, pausing for effect. “The premier of Ontario.” 

Bowman noted Doug Ford’s announcement on Tuesday committing $10 million over three years to identify, investigate and commemorate residential school burial sites in Ontario. 

The federal government has set aside $27.1 million to assist Indigenous communities in identifying unmarked burial sites at former residential schools.

“If other levels of government won’t act, I want to see our level of government act,” Bowman said. “To do what’s right, what’s just and respectful to the residential school survivors.” 

The motion also calls on the administration to report back on searching “other sites as appropriate.” There is no funding attached to it. 

Late last month, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in British Columbia revealed that preliminary results from a survey of the grounds at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School — at one time Canada’s largest — indicate the remains of more than 200 children could be buried at the site.

The disturbing discovery sparked a national outcry and demands for Canada, its governments and its non-Indigenous residents to finally reckon with the dark legacy of residential schools and the lasting trauma they inflicted on generations of Indigenous people.