A special appointee for unmarked graves says a federal decision to contract an international organization to engage with Indigenous communities on the issue lacks transparency and risks causing harm.
Kimberly Murray says she raised concerns directly with Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller on his department’s decision to spend $2 million to hire the International Commission on Missing Persons.
Based in The Hague, the organization specializes in identifying the remains of those killed or have gone missing in major conflicts and disasters, including in Canada after the 2013 Lac-Megantic rail disaster.
Miller’s office says the organization will undertake a “cross-country outreach campaign” with Indigenous communities looking to hear options to help identify or repatriate the possible remains of children who were forced to attend residential schools.
Following their engagement services, which the minister’s office says will be done through the help of “local Indigenous facilitators,” the commission must provide its advice to government in a report.
But Murray, who was appointed last year to serve as an independent special interlocutor on unmarked graves, says she is concerned with the lack of consultation done with Indigenous leadership before Ottawa inked the contract.
“There’s no transparency,” she said in a recent interview.
She says she is worried about the commission’s lack of experience working with residential school survivors and why the government is seeking another report on the matter when Murray’s office was already set up to provide it with advice.
“They’ve created Indigenous-led processes, but at the same time, it’s almost like they need a shadow report from a non-Indigenous entity for it to have any kind of credibility.”
“And they’re doing it sort of behind closed doors.”
A spokeswoman for Miller’s office said late Thursday that “agreements and documents will be shared when appropriate to do so, with input from all parties.”