VICTORIA -- The B.C. government is committing $12 million to help First Nations investigate former residential school sites.

The funding is also intended for mental health supports, as the recent discoveries can trigger trauma or other ongoing mental health tolls, according to the province.

"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 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," he said.

The province is working with a range of organizations to determine what the funding will go towards, such as search work, the removal of structures, documentation or mental health supports.

B.C. is working with the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), Indigenous Services Canada, Northern Affairs Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations to make sure the funding is going towards projects that are First Nations-led.

"The provision of these funds for immediate use by First Nations in the aftermath of discoveries of remains at residential school sites is an important first step in supporting the resiliency and healing of B.C. First Nations people," said Charlene Belleau, chair of the First Nations Health Council.

"We acknowledge our B.C. government partners for this effort, as our communities honour the spirit of these lost children."

B.C. is the latest province to promise funding for searches of former residential schools. Alberta, Ontario and Manitoba have already earmarked millions for searches in their provinces, while the federal government has promised $27 million for supports.

In total, B.C. was home to 18 residential schools, and more than 100 day schools.

The first residential school, St. Mary's, opened in Mission in 1863. It was also the last residential school to close in B.C. in 1984.

Support services for residential school survivors in B.C. can be found here:

  • The KUU-US Crisis Line Society provides a 24-hour, provincewide Indigenous crisis line for Indigenous peoples in B.C.
  • Adults, call 250 723-4050. Children and youth, call 250 723-2040. Toll-free: 1 800 588-8717
  • First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line for Indigenous people across Canada:
  • Phone toll-free 1 855 242-3310 or chat online: https://www.hopeforwellness.ca/
  • The Métis Crisis Line for Métis people in B.C., available 24 hours a day at 1 833 MétisBC: 1 833 638-4722
  • Tsow Tun Le Lum for Indigenous peoples in B.C., phone: 1 888 403-3123
  • Indian Residential School Survivors Society, phone: 1 800 721-0066 or 604 985-4464
  • 24-Hour National Crisis Line for residential school survivors and others affected: 1 866 925-4419