Actions and Commitments

Call to Action # 76: Missing Children and Burial Information (71-76)

Office of the Special Interlocutor Call for Submissions

January 16, 2023

NationTalk: Background Information

The Independent Special Interlocutor for Missing Children and Unmarked Graves and Burials Sites associated with Indian Residential Schools, Kimberly Murray, was appointed in June 2022 with a two-year mandate.  She is mandated to deliver a Progress Update Report (available at, an Interim Report, in June 2023, and a Final Report with recommendations, in June 2024, to the federal government and Indigenous Leadership.

The Independent Special Interlocutor invites written submissions from Survivors, Indigenous families and communities; Indigenous national, provincial, and territorial organizations; non-governmental organizations (NGOs); and other individuals, academics, professionals, organizations, and institutions with expertise on subjects relevant to the mandate, including:

  • The barriers and concerns relating to the identification, protection, and commemoration of unmarked graves and burial sites, including the exhumation and repatriation of remains, where desired.
  • Assisting communities obtain and preserve relevant information and records from Canada, the provinces and territories and any other institutions, such as church entities, universities, and other record holders, with a particular emphasis on OCAP Principles.
  • Promising practices, gaps and barriers in Canadian laws to locate, protect and commemorate unmarked burials and support the identification, recovery, and repatriation, where desired, of the missing children.
  • How Indigenous laws and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples can be included in a new legal framework to help identify, protect, and commemorate unmarked graves and burial sites, including the exhumation and repatriation of remains.

The Independent Special Interlocutor is interpreting her mandate broadly to include all missing children.  For these purposes, “missing children” is defined as any child who was never returned home from an Indian Residential School. This includes Indian Residential Schools both recognized and not recognized under the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) as well as other associated sites, such as hospitals (including psychiatric hospitals and sanitoria), cemeteries, Indian hospitals, reformatories, and industrial schools.

The written submissions will be reviewed by the Office of the Independent Special Interlocutor (OSI) and may be used to inform the findings and recommendations in the Final Report of the Independent Special Interlocutor.

Guidelines for Written Submissions

Written submissions may address any matter that relates to locating, identifying, protecting, commemorating, and/or repatriating missing children and unmarked burials associated with Indian Residential Schools.

The OSI is particularly interested in areas where practical or legal barriers exist as well as any emerging practices that may be useful models for those leading this search and recovery work.

Topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Indigenous law (in particular relating to grieving, burial and funerary practices, and upholding responsibilities to one’s ancestors)
  • Legislative, regulatory and policy barriers or best practices
  • International law and human rights frameworks and mechanisms, including:
    • the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
    • the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
    • international criminal law mechanisms
    • international human rights mechanisms
    • or other relevant international bodies or mechanisms
  • Records and archives (including barriers encountered, collaborative agreements to share records)
  • Indigenous data sovereignty (including community developed and controlled databases, policy approaches and best practices)
  • Policing, death investigations, criminal law and prosecutions
  • Genocide (including considerations in investigating genocide)
  • Repatriation of human remains, Sacred objects, and lands
  • Archeology: legal, technical and ethical issues
  • Forensic analysis processes that include/are led by Indigenous families and communities, (including DNA matching and associated considerations)
  • Apology
  • Commemoration
  • Public memory, museums and heritage sites
  • Public education

Please also see the following key guiding questions that may help you frame your submission on any of the above topics.

Key Guiding Questions and Areas of Inquiry:

  1. What, in your view, are the key challenges and barriers to identifying, locating, protecting, and commemorating missing children and unmarked burials and what recommendations would you make to resolve these obstacles?
  2. Are there any promising practices that you have developed or are aware of in the context of search and recovery work including those relating to:
  • Gathering Survivor truths and testimonies
  • Collaborative agreements on sharing information
  • Commemoration and memorialization processes and projects
  • Engagement and inclusive decision-making processes across affected Indigenous communities
  1. What broad structural changes to the current legal framework would produce more just outcomes for Survivors, families and communities in the context of missing children and unmarked burials?
  2. What distinction-based approaches should be put in place to recognize the diversity and unique identities, histories and realities of First Nations, Métis and Inuit in the context of the search and recovery of missing children and unmarked burials?
  3. What measures would support healing, accountability, justice and reconciliation for the:
  • Missing children?
  • Families of missing children?
  • Survivors?
  • Indigenous communities?
  1. How can the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous law be implemented to govern the search and recovery of missing children and unmarked burials?
  2. What Indigenous legal principles and processes are in place that should be taken into account in relation to protocols and practices to guide the process of identifying, locating, protecting, commemorating and repatriating missing children, unmarked burials, and Indian Residential School and other sites, including with respect to:
  • Honouring loved ones who have died while being held in Indian Residential Schools and other associated Institutions;
  • Responsibilities to ancestors regarding the protection of burial sites
  • Grief and trauma
  • Situations where families and communities do not know what happened to their loved one(s)
  1. What are key considerations with respect to affirming Indigenous data sovereignty? Is establishing one or more Indigenous archive(s) a good idea? What does it mean to be an Indigenous archive? Should there be an Indigenous Information and Privacy Commissioner? If yes, what considerations need to be taken into account?
  2. What recommendations would you make to ensure that reparative measures such as apology, commemoration, and repatriation facilitate truth finding, healing, justice and reconciliation?
  3. How does denialism about the existence of missing children and unmarked burials contribute to ongoing racism, discrimination, and hatred and what measures should governments, churches, public education institutions and non-Indigenous people and institutions take to address this?
  4. What recommendations would you make to ensure that government and churches are held accountable for their actions regarding missing children and unmarked burials?
  5. How should progress on implementing the Independent Special Interlocutor’s recommendations be evaluated and measured and who or what institution should do this?
  6. Is there anything else you want to share to effectively address these issues?

How to Make A Written Submission

Submissions may be of any length and address any topic relating to the search and recovery of missing children and unmarked burials. Submissions that are not relevant or are inappropriate may not be considered.

In your submission, please use the Submission Template (available for download on our website) and set out:

  • the date of your submission
  • the focus of your submission (i.e. topic area)
  • your name, organization, or community, and
  • clearly identify any recommendations you are making, where applicable

Submissions may be sent via email to with the subject line: “Written Submission from [Name of Community, Organization, Author]” or by mail to:

Office of the Independent Special Interlocutor
Attn: Kirsten Manley-Casimir
#225 & #227 Oneida Business Park
50 Generations Drive
Six Nations of the Grand River Territory
Ohsweken, ON  N0A 1MO

The closing date for submissions is August 31, 2023.

Despite this closing date, the OSI will do its best to consider submissions received after this date to inform the drafting of the Final Report wherever possible.

You will receive a confirmation email once your submission has been received.

The OSI regrets that it is unable to provide funding for the preparation of written submissions.

To facilitate knowledge sharing and public education, the OSI may, at its discretion and with the author’s consent, post selected submissions on the OSI website along with the author’s name, city, and the date the submission was received.

Other Forms of Submission

In addition to written submissions, the Independent Special Interlocutor invites other forms of submission including artistic submissions, which may be photographic, audio, video or other.  These may be included or referred to in the Interim and Final Reports.

Download the Submission Template