Content Warning

This page includes topics that may be traumatic. Access support resources on this page if you, or someone you know, needs help or support.

Our acknowledgement and commitment

The identification of burials of Indigenous children at former Indian Residential School sites across Canada is a national tragedy.

Ontario acknowledges that the painful legacy of Indian Residential Schools has resulted in ongoing, intergenerational trauma for Survivors, their families and communities.

Sharing these truths is and will always be difficult but we recognize that there cannot be meaningful reconciliation if we do not acknowledge this truth.

We understand that identifying, investigating, protecting and commemorating Residential School burials is a process that must be Indigenous-led and guided by Survivors, affected families and communities.

We are committed to:

  • completing this work and responding to the wishes of Survivors, affected families and communities in a manner that honours the lives lost
  • keeping the children and Survivors of Indian Residential Schools at the heart of the work that needs to be done

About Indian Residential Schools

The first church-run Indian Residential School in Canada opened in 1828. By the 1870s, the federal government had an official policy of funding Indian Residential Schools for Indigenous children.

There are 18 federally recognized Indian Residential Schools in Ontario. The last school operated until 1996 — less than one generation ago. These schools are recognized in the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement.

Residential schools were designed to:

  • separate children from their families
  • weaken cultural and community connections
  • prevent Indigenous peoples from existing as distinct communities (assimilation)

More than 150,000 children were forced to attend Indian Residential Schools across the country. Many of those children lost their connection to their distinct cultures, traditions, languages and knowledge systems, and some children never returned home at all.
According to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, based on residential school records, 4,200 children died while attending Indian Residential Schools. To date, only 2,800 of those children have been identified. 

However, many residential school records are incomplete or missing. As a result, the total number of children lost is probably much higher.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada documented the lived experiences of Survivors, families and others personally affected. The commission issued 94 calls to action to:

  • redress the legacy of residential schools
  • advance the process of reconciliation in Canada

Working to understand the truth about Canadian history is an important part of the journey towards healing and reconciliation. It is important that all of us in Ontario continue to deepen our understanding of the legacy of the Indian Residential School system.

Find educational resources for all ages prepared by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

Available funding

To support Indian Residential School burial investigations, we have committed $62.3 million in funding to establish:

  • dedicated Indian Residential School burial investigation funding programs
  • additional Indian Residential School-specific mental health and addictions supports for Survivors, families, Elders and communities

The funding programs will:

  • support investigation work at the sites of the 18 former Indian Residential Schools in Ontario
  • enable and support Indian Residential School burial identification, investigation, protection and commemoration
  • provide culturally appropriate, trauma-informed mental health supports for Survivors, families, community members and Indigenous communities
  • increase public education and awareness about Indian Residential Schools

Learn more and apply for funding opportunities.

Ontario’s work towards truth and reconciliation

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action set out a path for advancing meaningful reconciliation.

Ontario is honouring the principles of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission by working collaboratively to advance equity, inclusion and improved opportunities and outcomes for Indigenous peoples in Ontario.

We are working to foster relationships through:

  • fair, respectful and meaningful agreements
  • enhancing government awareness of Indigenous peoples, histories and perspectives
  • advancing the social and economic sustainability of Indigenous communities 

We are also continuing to advance reconciliation through practical initiatives that make a meaningful difference in addressing key socio-economic needs and inequities, such as: 

  • protecting and supporting the province’s most vulnerable populations, including Indigenous children, youth and women
  • promoting economic prosperity and advancing opportunities for employment and resource revenue sharing with Indigenous partners and Northern communities, including in the mining, forestry and aggregate sectors
  • supporting initiatives that improve the health, education and wellbeing of Indigenous peoples in the province
  • making sure public servants receive training to support culturally informed policy and program development
  • advancing additional initiatives that support Indian Residential School Survivors and commemorate the legacy of Indian Residential Schools

Support for Survivors

Support is available if you or someone you know needs help.

A National Residential School Crisis Line is available to provide support to former Residential School students and their families. You can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the free of charge 24-Hour National Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.

Indigenous peoples across Canada can also connect with The Hope for Wellness Help Line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for counselling and crisis intervention. Call the toll-free help line at 1-855-242-3310 or connect to the online chat.

Talk4Healing is a culturally grounded, fully confidential help line available in 14 languages for Indigenous women in Ontario. Call the toll-free number at 1-855-554-HEAL (4325).

Free and confidential mental health support is available to anyone who may be affected.

Find a Friendship Centre near you offering support in your community.