Names of children who died in residential schools released in sombre ceremony

Visitors to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg can view a new exhibit called The Witness Blanket Monday, December 14, 2015. The 12-metre-long installation is made of more than 800 items collected from the sites and survivors of residential schools, in the style of a woven blanket. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Their anonymous deaths have been honoured and their names, hundreds and hundreds of them, are finally known.

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has revealed the names of 28-hundred children who died in residential schools during a sombre ceremony in Gatineau, Quebec.

A 50-metre long, blood-red cloth bearing the names of each child and the schools they attended was unfurled and carried through a gathered crowd of Indigenous elders and chiefs, residential-school survivors and others.

Many openly wept.

The list and the ceremony are intended to break the silence over the fates of at least some of the thousands who disappeared during the decades the schools operated.

Ry Moran, director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, which compiled the list, says it was essential that these names be known.

Elder Dr. Barney Williams, a residential-school survivor and member of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation survivors committee, says today's ceremony finally brings recognition and honour to cousins, nephews, nieces and school friends who were forgotten.

Year of research was conducted on what happened to the many children who were taken into residential schools and never came out.

Archivists poured over records from governments and churches, which together operated as many as 80 schools across the country over 120 years.

This is the start of meeting one of the 94 calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report issued in 2015, which called for resources to develop and maintain a register of deaths in residential schools.