Ontario Indigenous group criticizes federal government’s unmarked graves contract

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An Indigenous political organization representing 39 Ontario First Nations says it is “confounded” by a federal decision to hire an international organization to provide advice on unmarked graves.

The Anishinabek Nation released a statement today expressing its leadership’s “bewilderment” over Ottawa’s $2-million contract with the Netherlands-based International Commission on Missing Persons.

Travis Boissoneau, a regional deputy grand chief, says they should not be learning about the agreement only after it has been finalized and questioned whether First Nations and residential school survivors were consulted.

The organization also questions the need for the commission’s involvement in the first place, when Ottawa already appointed an Indigenous expert to provide it with advice about unmarked graves.

The director-general of the commission recently told The Canadian Press their work should be given a chance and that it was a Cree community who first asked them for help.

Sheila North, a Cree leader from Manitoba who the commission has hired as a program manager, says they plan to provide communities with options around identifying possible human remains in unmarked graves and will not duplicate the work of Indigenous experts.

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