The remains of 215 children were discovered at a former boarding school that opened more than a hundred years ago to accommodate the indigenous people of Canada, according to a local tribe.
– This is a painful reminder of the dark and shameful chapter in the history of our country, Tweets Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday.
The Tk’emlups te Secwepemc tribe said in a statement the night before that a georadar had been used to find the remains of the children buried. They are believed to be from students who went to school in Kamloops, British Columbia, in the southwest of the country.
Some of them were only three years old, says the leader of the tribe, Rosan Casimir.
She describes it as “an unimaginable loss talked about, but never documented” by the school administration, which closed nearly 50 years ago.
Results are preliminary, and a report is expected to be published next month, Kazimir told the broadcaster CBC.
139 boarding schools
Meanwhile, indigenous people collaborate with forensics and museums. The hope is to find out more information about the shocking discovery and death records.
The boarding school of Kamloops housed up to 500 students and was the largest of the 139 boarding schools established at the end of the nineteenth century. The Catholic Church ran the school on behalf of the Canadian government from 1890 to 1969.
The process was then taken over by the federal government, before it was completely closed in 1978.
Abuse and assimilation
In all, about 150,000 young indigenous First Nations (formerly called Indians), as well as Inuit and Mettis, were forced to attend these schools. There, students were subjected to physical and sexual abuse by principals and teachers who deprived them of their culture and language.
Today these experiences are used to explain the high level of poverty, alcoholism, and domestic violence, as well as the high suicide rate among indigenous peoples in Canada.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission previously identified the names or information of at least 3,200 children who died as a result of abuse or neglect while attending such a boarding school. The exact number of deaths is still unknown.
A formal apology
In 2008, the Canadian government formally apologized for what the commission has since called “cultural genocide”.
Communities of local boarding school students across Canada will be contacted in further investigations of the Kamloops discovery.
My heart goes out to families and communities affected by this tragic news, says Caroline Bennett, Minister Responsible for Relations with Indigenous People.
It says the government will provide support in the process of handling the case.
At Kamloops, the leadership warned in 1910 that federal funds were not enough to feed the students, according to a statement by Tk’emlups te Secwepemc.