The devastating discovery has been made in Canada: the remains of 215 children have been found buried at the site of a former boarding school for indigenous students.
The school in British Columbia was part of a nationwide scheme that took in First Nations children, in an effort to assimilate them into Canadian society.
Investigations have shown there was widespread abuse. These latest findings are once again opening a wound that has yet to heal.
In Vancouver, people gathered to mourn the 215 children whose remains were found at a former Indigenous residential school, with ground-penetrating radar confirming the grim discovery. Founded in 1890, the Kamloops school was one of Canada’s state-run Indigenous residential schools.
Chief Rosanne Casimir called it an “unthinkable loss,” and said that while the deaths had been long spoken about, the residential school never documented them.
“We had a knowing in our community that we were able to verify. To our knowledge, these missing children are undocumented deaths,” Casimir said. “We sought out a way to confirm that knowing out of deepest respect and love for those lost children and their families, understanding that Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc is the final resting place of these children.”
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. I am thinking about everyone affected by this distressing news. We are here for you. https://t.co/ZUfDRyAfET— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) May 28, 2021
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the discovery was heartbreaking, calling it “a painful reminder of that dark and shameful chapter of our country’s history.”
After being forcibly separated from their parents, children were made to convert to Christianity and banned from speaking their native languages.
Physical and sexual abuse by headmasters and teachers was common – a 2015 report found that over 3,200 children had died from maltreatment and neglect in what it called a “cultural genocide.
Canada school site History
In 2008, the Canadian government formally apologized for the system.
The Tk’emlúps te Secwe pemc Nation said it was engaging with the coroner and reaching out to the home communities whose children attended the school. They expect to have preliminary findings by mid-June.
In a statement, British Columbia Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Terry Teegee called finding such grave sites “urgent work” that “refreshes the grief and loss for all First Nations in British Columbia.”
” The Kamloops school closed in 1978 – but rumors persisted that the deaths of many children had been covered up. Canada’s politicians — including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – said they were heartbroken by the news. The Tk’emlups te Secwepemc tribe says it is working with the coroner and museums to try to shed light on the grim discovery – and find records of the children’s deaths.