Catholic order that staffed Kamloops residential school signs agreement to share records: Royal BC Museum

The former Kamloops Indian Residential School is seen in this photo from the Kamloops Heritage Commission.

The Royal BC Museum and the order of Catholic nuns who staffed the former Kamloops Indian Residential School have signed a memorandum of understanding to provide researchers access to the order’s private archives of photographs, financial records and accounts of daily life at the school.

The Victoria-based museum announced Wednesday that its own researchers and those from the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre (IRSHDC) at the University of British Columbia will get “enhanced access” to the records of the Sisters of St. Ann (SSA).

The nuns taught at the Kamloops residential school and provided nursing and child-care services from 1890 until 1970, according to Sisters of St. Ann president Sister Marie Zarowny. Last month, the remains of 215 children were discovered in unmarked graves at the school site.

“All archives from organizations that were involved with residential schools can play a role in the process of truth-finding and reconciliation,” said Daniel Muzyka, acting CEO of the museum, in a statement Wednesday. “Expediting access to the SSA records to Indigenous communities is a positive step along this path.”

The memorandum seeks to make records of the SSA’s involvement in the school accessible to Indigenous communities, including the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc First Nation in Kamloops.

“We affirm our commitment to collaborate in finding the truth and will assist in the process in whatever way we can,” Zarowny said. “It is of the utmost importance to us to contribute, in any way possible, to transparency and accessibility, and participate in activities that can lead to healing and reconciliation.”

The Royal BC Museum says staff will work with the IRSHDC, as a neutral third party, to audit the SSA holdings after July 1, when the agreement will take effect.

The memorandum will remain in place until all the work of reviewing and processing the records is complete and the SSA archives are transferred to the BC Archives at the Royal BC Museum.

Both IRSHDC and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation will work with the signatories of the agreement to ensure transparency and support access, according to the museum.

The agreement also seeks to accelerate the transfer of all SSA records to the BC Archives by 2025, when a new collections and research building is scheduled to open.

Agreement signed by RBCM and Sisters of St. Ann