Health Care

Remains of hundreds of Canadian indigenous children found in old school grounds

Remains of hundreds of Canadian indigenous children found in old school grounds”

"Some were as young as three years old", said chief Rosanne Casimir, calling it "an unthinkable loss that was spoken about but never documented" by school administrators.

"With access to the latest technology, the true accounting of the missing students will hopefully bring some peace and closure to those lives lost and their home communities", Casimir added.

"The news that remains were found at the former Kamloops residential school breaks my heart - it is a painful reminder of that dark and shameful chapter of our country's history".

"We have to keep in mind that we have known, without a doubt, that thousands of children died in residential schools and majority, or at least many of them, were buried in unmarked graves at the schools".

Casimir said band officials are informing community members and surrounding communities that had children who attended the school. "We are early in the process of gathering information and will continue to work collaboratively with the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc and others as this sensitive work progresses", she said.

"This is the beginning but, given the nature of this news, we felt it important to share immediately", Casimir added.

"In the ordinary course, if we were investigating a mass grave in Rwanda or Mexico or the former Yugoslavia, then you would just have a sort of team of forensic experts taking DNA samples without much regard to the gravesite as anything but a source of evidence", he said.

It was operated by the Catholic church on behalf of the Canadian government from 1890 to 1969.

Back in 1910, the principal said that the government did not provide enough money to properly feed the students, while in 1924, a portion of the school rebuilt after it was destroyed by a fire.

"Here, we have cultural sensitivities and very delicate protocols that may actually mitigate against finding out all that we can from the remains of the victims".

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Nicole Schabus, a law professor at Thompson Rivers University, said each of her first-year law students at the Kamloops university spends at least one day at the former residential school speaking with survivors about conditions they had endured.

In a written statement, B.C. Premier John Horgan said he was "horrified and heartbroken" to learn of the unmarked burial site.

Manny Jules, who was chief of the Tk'emlups for 16 years, said he wants an apology from the Catholic Church for its role in operating residential schools across the country.

"It will undoubtedly open up a lot of traumatic memories for a lot of families and that's totally understandable", he told NL News.

"Really, I think what needs to occur is perhaps some sort of discovery and perhaps some forensics about who these children were, where are they from if that's possible", he said in an interview from Prince George. "What we have here is just a visceral reminder of that tragedy". A large number never returned home, their families given only vague explanations, or none at all.

Indigenous communities throughout Canada, ChiefCasimir said, had children who were forced into residential schools only to vanish. Some ran away while others died at the schools.

Casimir said on Friday that more bodies may be found because there are more areas to search in the school grounds.

How and when the children died is still unknown.

Tk'emlúps said it is its understanding that there were children that came from other communities not listed here.



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