The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) says the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate is giving them full access to important residential school records being stored on the other side of the ocean.
On Tuesday, the NCTR says the Oblate’s General House Archive in Rome could be housing historical documents on residential schools, which the Oblates are giving them access to.
“At this point, no one has identified what specific materials might be relevant," Father Ken Thorson of OMI Lacombe says in the joint statement. The Oblates will give full access to the NCTR, using a third party to identify what is relevant and what information it could contain.
They say this could include letters written by early Oblate missionaries to their Oblate leaders in France or Rome. The Oblates ran 48 residential schools in Canada, including at schools where hundreds of unmarked graves have been identified.
“With the ongoing discoveries of unmarked graves and finding our children, there is a willingness to share the truth now. We are grateful that Survivors, their families, and their communities will now be able to honour and remember the children who never returned home, and all Canadians can learn the full history," Executive Director Stephanie Scott says. “This collaboration between the NCTR and the Oblates is the start of a path we are forging together through engagement, dialogue, and meaningful conversations."
The NCTR says the Oblates are emphasizing their commitment to transparency, releasing copies of historically significant information related to residential schools including documents that may help identify missing children.
“This offer from the Oblates of Mary Immaculate to provide copies of records to the NCTR in order to make them available to all Survivors, their families, and all Canadians, is a representation of true reconciliation."
The NCTR has more than five million records pertaining to residential schools.
This winter a delegation of Indigenous leaders was set to be meeting with the Pope this winter, but it has been postponed due to concerns about the omicron COVID-19 variant.
This article has been updated to say the 2021 meeting with the Pope has been postponed.
Residential school survivors and their families who are in distress can contact the Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.