Just months into her mandate, the special interlocutor for missing children and unmarked graves associated with residential schools says major concerns about access to records, lands, and funding have been expressed by residential school survivors, families, and communities.
That's according to a progress report Kimberly Murray submitted to Justice Minister David Lametti on Nov. 10.
"I don't think there's anything surprising in the report," said Murray, who is Kanien'kehá:ka from Kanesatake, Que.
"It's what everyone's been saying for the last year about the barriers and concerns that everyone's facing. But… some of the things that communities are investigating are quite shocking."
Murray was appointed by the federal government in June with a two-year mandate to provide recommendations for a federal legal framework for the treatment and protection of burial sites of children at former residential schools.
Since beginning her mandate, she's hosted a national gathering that brought over 300 attendees to Edmonton in September, and has met with several communities that have embarked on searches of their own.
Murray said that through these conversations, it's clear a major barrier is accessing records from institutions like Library and Archives Canada, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR), and church entities.
"There is a real need for this open access to records," said Murray.
"It's quite clear that there's a lot of lack of knowledge of how to access some of the information so that they can find their loved ones."
Murray said there is a need for more transparency and information on how to access records in a timely fashion.
"The delay in getting the records is really not acceptable," she said.
"Communities have been waiting months and months to get access to the records."
The delays are something Raymond Frogner, head of archives at the NCTR, knows all too well. He said after the discoveries of unmarked graves at former residential school sites last year, the centre has been inundated with requests.
There is currently a backlog of 450 inquiries for individual survivor sets of records, and they are also working with over 35 communities across the country that are doing unmarked burial research.