Student Memorial Register FAQ
The creation of a National Residential School Death Register is an important Call to Action issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The TRC’s own work on Missing Children and Unmarked Burials stemmed from calls issued by Survivors and others to properly honour the children that never returned home from the schools. The creation of this memorial site builds upon the extensive work conducted by the TRC. Throughout community engagement events held by the NCTR, Survivors, knowledge keepers, community members and Elders collectively expressed how important it is for these children to be remembered and honoured. This memorial honours these children and makes their names known to help ceremonies and memorials take place in communities.
The register lists children who died while attending a residential school. It includes the names of children who became ill at a residential school and sent to an “Indian hospital” or other kinds of medical facility where they passed away. In some cases, children who were gravely ill or injured were sent home where they passed away. These names are also included on the site.
The effort to fully document the children that never returned home from the schools remains ongoing. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 1953 children, 477 students where additional investigation is required and an additional 1242 students where they are known to have passed away but their names are not yet known. The NCTR has conducted further review of the records and has added an additional 483 students to the memorial. This number is expected to climb as additional work is conducted. In total there are presently 4120 children within the national student memorial register. Research efforts by the NCTR are ongoing, and this number will increase over time. Please note that at present, this memorial only contains students who attended IRRSA and does not include students who died while attending day schools or other non-IRSSA schools.
Creating a comprehensive list of the children that never returned home from residential schools is complex and required years of research. Hundreds, if not thousands of people have contributed to this research. The research was conducted using church and government records collected through the TRC’s document collection process. Indian Affairs Annual reports, death certificates and admission and discharge records are were used in this research. In some cases, churches provided lists of students known to have died at a residential school to the TRC. Statements were given by Survivors, intergenerational survivors and community members also formed an essential part of this research. Ongoing information from Survivors and communities presents an important opportunity to ensure that no child is forgotten.
Gaps in the historical record, inconsistent record-keeping and difficulty accessing records created challenges. There are literally millions of more records to review and collect. In addition, children were often given a name in French or English when they were brought into the school. Sometimes their family names were westernized and misspelled by administrators in the schools. These western names were used inconsistently, misspelled in correspondence and reports, and even randomly changed over the course of time. There are examples of children with over 15 different forms of a name in the school records. The complexity of the historical record remains a significant challenge in this work of remembering and honouring.
The names in the register represent the most frequently used name that appeared in the records.
While we have done our best to ensure the accuracy of the children listed in this memorial, an important next step is to work with Survivors and communities to ensure the memorial is accurate. If you see anything that requires change or correction, please contact us at the NCTR.
You are welcome to contact us for more information on the records we hold. The NCTR has dedicated staff ready to help family members, communities, media, researchers and members of the general public to access records held by the NCTR. Given the sensitive nature of the records held by the NCTR, many of the records are held in confidence on restricted status. Access to these records is only allowed on a case-by-case basis according to access and privacy legislation. We work closely with elders, our Governing Circle and our Survivors Circle to ensure the highest standards of ethics and cultural safety are being upheld in fulfilling access requests. All-access is governed by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Act. While we encourage requests, please note that we prioritize access by Survivors, intergenerational Survivors, family members and communities looking for information on loved ones. Public records already released are available at NCTR.ca.
The TRC authored a special report on Missing Children and Unmarked Burials. This report can be found HERE.
Yes. The NCTR held many community engagement sessions across the country to discuss this sensitive work with elders, Survivors, intergenerational survivors and health support workers. These engagement sessions built upon an earlier set of engagement sessions the NCTR held across the country in 2015. The NCTR also worked very closely with the NCTR Survivors’ Circle in the development of this register.
Ceremony and work with traditional knowledge keepers are present in everything that we do at the NCTR. These ceremonies deeply inform the approach and work of the NCTR. Ceremonies remain an active and ongoing part of our commitment to honour and remember the children that never returned home from the schools and to ensure we conduct our work in a manner expected of us by communities. The NCTR held a number of specific ceremonies to honour the children within this memorial site including a four-day ceremony in the summer of 2019 at a national gathering of elders. At this most recent national gathering of elders, the knowledge keepers clearly stated how important it was to return these names back to communities to allow additional ceremonies to occur. There is no one ceremony that can replace the many ceremonies that now need to happen in communities across Canada with these names now being known.
If you have any information on a child that died or went missing during their time at a residential school, we want to hear from you. Please contact us at our offices:
Toll-free line: 1-855-415-4534
You may also wish to speak to one of our many partner organizations, such as the Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at the University of British Columbia, if you would prefer to make an in-person visit in your local area. The NCTR will ensure this memorial site is kept up to date through ongoing updates made by community members and others.
Given the complexity of the records, it is very likely that some spellings of names will need to be changed or other information updated. If you see information about a child that is not correct, please contact us by phone, email or in person.
At present, this memorial does not include students that passed away at Day Schools. That said, the NCTR will be documenting the names of any former students discovered in future records review for future honouring. Families and community members are welcome to provide information to the NCTR on Day School students. The NCTR will respectfully document any known students for future memorial activities.
This memorial register lays the foundation for additional TRC Calls to action to be realized. There are as many as 400 burial sites across the country based on current estimates. The important work of locating and identifying unmarked burial locations across the country and creating monuments to remember the children lost are called for in the TRC Calls. Research and community engagement work to further document the names of children that died while attending the schools remains ongoing. Locating and identifying unmarked gravesites are the next phases of the project as is the ongoing collection of information from coroners’ offices, provinces, municipalities, churches and federal government sources.
The TRC called for a national monument in the national capital. The TRC also called for monuments in each of the provincial and territorial capitals. These have yet to be created. Community involvement in these memorials is essential. The NCTR firmly supports these Calls to Action and will support activities and initiatives looking to create these.
The NCTR will provide copies of the book at no charge to family members that have a loved one on the list. For others, the book will be available through the NCTR website for purchase. Part of the proceeds from these books will go towards ensuring families can have a copy of the memorial register at no charge.
Yes, communities can request this. Please contact the NCTR for more information.
In response to Call to Action 72, Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada provided the NCTR with a one-time funding contribution to develop the National Student Death Register.
Small grants to support community-based healing, remembrance, and reconciliation
Communities need to be supported to honour the children in this memorial site. To assist with this, the NCTR has developed a small grants program to support community-based commemoration, honouring and remembrance. This program gives communities, Survivor Organizations, nations, regions and others the opportunity to apply for small grants to assist in the remembering, honouring and commemoration of children that never returned home from residential schools.
Funds available to communities
Communities, Survivor Organizations, nations, regions and others may apply for funding up to $5000.00 per event. Communities in remote or rural areas – typically defined as northern or fly-in communities – may apply for, and receive up to $7500.00 to accommodate for increased costs.
A significant portion of the funds available came through the generous donations of the Secret Path Team – including from Gord Downie, Jeff Lemire and other teams associated with the Secret Path. All proceeds from the Secret Path were donated to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to support ongoing education efforts and efforts to honour children that never returned home from the schools. From there, hundreds of other individual Canadians have contributed to the fund. The NCTR is very thankful for these donations and is honoured to pass this money through to communities to conduct the important healing work necessary.
Communities know how best to properly honour the children that never returned home from Residential Schools. As such, the NCTR will support communities in pursuing the activities they feel are best. Some possible activities could include, but are not limited to:
- Memorial feasts
- Memorial or commemorative markers
- Putting up fencing around a burial site
- Cutting back overgrown/shrubs on a burial site
- Bringing in elders to conduct ceremonies
- Memorial videos/books
- Hiring assistants to conduct research/documentation activities
Applications should come from a registered non-profit, Indigenous government, or other recognized organization. Normally speaking, individuals are not eligible to apply.
You are welcome to submit your application at any point in time. Applications are received on a rolling basis up to the program funding cap each year. Please give us a call to discuss applying for one of these small grants.
National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation
Chancellor’s Hall, 177 Dysart Road
University of Manitoba
Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2 Canada
Toll Free: 1-855-415-4534 (North America)
NCTR’s spirit name – bezhig miigwan, meaning “one feather”.
Bezhig miigwan calls upon us to see each Survivor coming to the NCTR as a single eagle feather and to show those Survivors the same respect and attention an eagle feather deserves. It also teaches we are all in this together — we are all one, connected, and it is vital to work together to achieve reconciliation.