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Sisters of St. Ann agree to provide better access to residential school records

Records will be transferred to B.C. Archives to be accessed by Indigenous communities
The Royal B.C. Museum entered into a new agreement with the Sisters of St. Ann Wednesday to release archival records related to residential schools. (Photo courtesy the Royal BC Museum)

The order of nuns that taught at the former Kamloops residential school, and others in the province, has agreed to provide access to their records that could help shine light on what happened there and how 215 children ended up in unidentified graves.

The agreement was reached through a memorandum of understanding with the Royal B.C. Museum announced Wednesday and will see Sisters of St. Ann’s records transferred from their own locked, self-contained office space to that of B.C. Archives.

From there, Indigenous communities will be able to access and analyze them. Of priority will be finding Kamloops residential school records and making them available to Tk’emlups te Secwe’pemc.

Wednesday’s announcement alters an agreement the museum and Sisters of St. Ann originally entered into in 2011 that allowed St. Ann’s records to be housed at B.C. Archives, but kept in a private space. The understanding then was that the records would revert to B.C. Archives and be made public in 2027.

READ ALSO: Fundraiser to search Vancouver Island’s residential schools tops $100,000

On June 4, in an open letter to Premier John Horgan, the First Nations Leadership Council demanded the public release of the records. The same day, the Royal B.C. Museum put out a release stating it agreed with the leadership council and that the Sisters of St. Ann had a responsibility to be completely transparent with their records regarding residential schools.

Now, the museum and the Sisters of St. Ann say records will begin to be made public next month when the memorandum of understanding comes into effect. B.C. Archives staff will act as a “neutral third party” and begin auditing records on July 1.

The history and dialogue centre and National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation will also work with the signatories to ensure transparency.

The museum and Sisters of St. Ann say they are now aiming to transfer all the records by 2025.

READ ALSO: ‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

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