VICTORIA, B.C. – The province announced an investment of $12 million on Monday to support investigations at former residential school sites.

“Finding evidence of a burial site for children who attended the former Kamloops residential school was a stark reminder of the atrocities of the Canadian residential school system and how those continue to be felt to this day,” said Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, in a statement on Monday.

“Many other sites throughout the province and country are still the source of unanswered questions and terrible pain. It is imperative that we take our lead from First Nations as we move forward, and we will continue to act quickly and in a coordinated way to support their needs.”

This new funding aims to help First Nations communities with strategies to identify, investigate, document, maintain, protect or commemorate residential school sites where the remains of children may be located. It will also provide community wellness and mental health supports.

“We are pleased to see the B.C. government’s commitment to supporting First Nations in this work,” said Richard Jock, CEO, First Nations Health Authority.

“Acknowledging trauma and the damaging and lasting impacts residential school have on First Nations people, their families and communities is a first step. The ongoing provision of culturally safe healing and wellness supports for B.C. First Nations must be communities-driven and Nation-based. This must be the primary focus going forward.”

According to a provincial release, there were 18 residential schools that operated in British Columbia. The first was St. Mary’s in Mission, which opened in 1863. It was also the last to close after operating for 121 years.

The province says in addition to residential schools, there were over 100 day schools and three Indian hospitals in B.C.

Information on how to access provincial funding will be shared in the coming days, says the province.

Support is available for residential school survivors and others who have been affected. The KUU-US Crisis Line Society operates 24 hours a day for Indigenous peoples in B.C. Adults can call 250-723-4050, children and youth can call 250-723-2040.