Order of nuns that staffed B.C.’s residential schools to pass records to B.C. museum

VICTORIA — The order of nuns that staffed numerous residential schools and 10 hospitals in British Columbia over more than 160 years is handing over ownership of its archives to the Royal B.C. Museum.

The museum and Sisters of Saint Ann announced in a joint statement Wednesday that the transfer will be expedited and allow for the records to be digitized.

Alicia Dubois, the museum’s CEO, says the transparent access to the comprehensive residential school records is essential to truth and reconciliation efforts.

Members of the nuns' order worked at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, where the local First Nation has asked for more documents in its quest to identify the remains of hundreds of children believed to be buried near the former school.

The statement says the sisters will fund an archivist to help in the management of the process, while the museum will be responsible for allowing access to residential school survivors, their families and Indigenous communities.

Sister Marie Zarowny, president of the Sisters of Saint Ann, says they recognize access to the archives is just a single step toward reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

“Our hope is that the archive transfer and digitization will contribute toward a greater understanding of what took place in the residential school system, and the harm and trauma students experienced.”

The Tk’emlups te Secwepemc announced a year ago that suspected unmarked graves of as many as 215 children were found near the site of the former Kamloops residential school, information the chief said then was known by generations of families whose children didn’t return home from school.

The statement says the Sisters of Saint Ann provided all records related to residential schools to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2012, and it has been working with the museum since last June to provide access to its archives.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2022.

The Canadian Press