BRANTFORD -- A search for unmarked graves at the former Mohawk Institute residential school in Brantford will likely begin in the coming weeks, a local Indigenous leader says.

Six Nations of the Grand River Chief Mark Hill says he met with the federal Minister of Crown Indigenous Relations on Friday and confirms a search could begin in the next two to three weeks.

"We are currently in the process of actionizing the plan and really making sure that we're coming at this with a really holistic approach," he said.

The news comes as the nation continues to respond following the finding of an estimated 751 unmarked graves at a residential school in Saskatchewan.

Meanwhile, City of Brantford council spent hours debating the proper way to honour those impacted by residential schools.

"Our turn is going to come when they start discovering things in our city," said Councillor John Sless.

Council ultimately voted against the light installation at Victoria Park in downtown Brantford. The proposed memorial would have featured orange lights meant to draw attention and spark conversation about the impact of residential schools.

The lights themselves were estimated to cost $5,000, but the total cost of the project was pegged at $100,000, with most of the money going toward fencing and 24/7 security guards.

"$100,000 is an exceptional amount of money and I have no comment whatsoever on how it should be spent expect it should not be spent on fencing up and securing Victoria Park," said councilor Joshua Wall.

"I think we would be far better off honouring their memory by making a $100,000 donation to the save the evidence campaign," said councilor Dan McCreary.

But other councillors felt the price for security was worthy, adding that items left at memorials can be very personal.

"They might not look valuable to the naked eye but to the person who put it there, it means everything," Sless said.

While council ultimately voted against the Victoria Park light memorial, they will continue to discuss the proper location and design of a memorial.

They also voted to donate $100,000 to the Woodland Cultural Centre's Save the Evidence Campaign and to create dedicated space in Victoria Park where community members can pay repsects to victims of the residential school system.

If you are a former residential school student in distress, or have been affected by the residential school system and need help, you can contact the 24-hour Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419, or the Indian Residential School Survivors Society toll free line at 1-800-721-0066.

A list of Indigenous mental health resources can be accessed here.


A previous version of this story said council voted against the Victoria Park proposal. This story has been edited to clarify that while council voted against the proposed light installation memorial at the park, council approved the creation of "dedicated spaces" in Victoria Park where members of the public can pay their repsects to victims of the residential school system.