Missing Children and Burial Information (71-76): Current Problems

Fed. Govt.


July 22, 2021


Appeal to International Criminal Court

Appeal to International Criminal Court

Nunantsiaq News: Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq and her fellow NDP MP Charlie Angus held a press conference on Parliament Hill Thursday to ask federal Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti to reach out to the International Criminal Court to launch an investigation into a system they said “represents a crime against humanity.” “We need a full and independent investigation that has the power to shine a light on every facet of this national crime, and has the power to bring perpetrators to justice,” Qaqqaq said.
Qaqqaq said an investigation should extend beyond just residential schools to examine any institution that Indigenous people were forced to attend, providing the example of southern sanatoriums Inuit were sent to between the 1940s and 1960s to recover from tuberculosis. “There are possibly hundreds, if not thousands, of Inuit [buried] outside of sanatoriums across the country,” she said.
https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/ndp-calls-for-criminal-probe-into-residential-schools/


February 15, 2022


Discoveries of unmarked graves at Residential Schools

Fort Pelly IRS and St. Philip’s IRS

Toronto Star – The discovery of 54 potential graves of children forced to attend two residential schools on Keeseekoose First Nation land was announced to a silent gathering of community members and media… Meanwhile, Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations said the Catholic Church, and others who ran the school, must turn the records over to help identify any possible remains.Ground-penetrating radar was used to locate the graves at Fort Pelly Residential School, which was open from 1905 to 1913, and St. Philip’s Residential School, open from 1927 to 1969. The institutions were located on the First Nation’s land near Kamsack. Both schools were run by the Catholic Church.

According to project leader and former chief Ted Quewezance, the radar hit 42 potential graves at the Fort Pelly site and 12 at St. Philip’s. Headstones without names once stood there, Quewezance said. Why the headstones were removed is a question the community wants answered. 

He said there may be more graves not yet detected because snow forced the search to be halted.

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation says St. Philip’s Residential School had a widespread problem with sexual and physical abuse, which led to the dismissal of a school supervisor over the mistreatment of students.

The centre has a record of two student deaths at that school and two at Fort Pelly.


October 18, 2021


Discoveries of unmarked graves at Residential Schools

Kamloops Indian Residential School

Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation

Globe and Mail – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was publicly reprimanded by the chief of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation after a ceremony in which he paid his first respects to missing children believed to be buried at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. Ms. Casimir said the First Nation had sent two letters of invitation to Mr. Trudeau’s office in which it asked him to participate in the Sept. 30 event. The request was about him showing his “commitment to rectifying the historical wrongs of residential schools and to grieve with our residential school survivors,” she said.

The First Nation has asked for funding for a healing centre, and for Canada to release records on student attendance at the Kamloops school to help with the identification of missing children.


July 16, 2021


Discoveries of unmarked graves at Residential Schools

Kamloops Indian Residential School

Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation

Toronto Star – Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation released a report on the preliminary findings of their search of the 215 unmarked graves:

  • Revising the initial estimate to 200 “targets of interest” – probable graves
  • Calling on the federal government to help identify any remains in the unmarked graves
  • Demanding documents and funding from the federal government
  • Demands for the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the federal government to provide all documentation of the school attendance records
  • Pushing for criminal investigations

For complete details from the press conference, please see NationTalk:
https://nationtalk.ca/story/kamloops-indian-residential-school-missing-children-findings-but-a-fraction-of-investigation-and-work-need-to-bring-peace-to-families-and-communities


June 6, 2021


Discoveries of unmarked graves at Residential Schools

Kamloops Indian Residential School

Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation

Toronto Star – The Missionary of Oblates of Mary Immaculate “says it will disclose all historical documents in its possession… They operated 48 schools in Canada, including the Marieval IRS and the Kamloops IRS…In the statement, the Oblates said the work is not complete because of complications with provincial and national privacy laws.


June 5, 2021


Discoveries of unmarked graves at Residential Schools

Kamloops Indian Residential School

Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation

Toronto Star – The federal government, so far, has refused to legally compel the Catholic Church to release all documents relating the residential school system. The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate who operated the Kamloops Residential School “have yet to release any records about the Kamloops school. The Catholic order, which ran about 47% of Canada’s residential schools, says it has released some records while retaining control over others, claiming privacy or historical inaccuracies.


June 3, 2021


Discoveries of unmarked graves at Residential Schools

Kamloops Indian Residential School

Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation

Murray Sinclair, who led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission “called for an independent investigation of the broader question of unmarked sites across the country and demanded it not be conducted under the auspices of the federal government.”


June 2, 2021


Discoveries of unmarked graves at Residential Schools

Kamloops Indian Residential School

Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation

National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) and the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre (IRSHDC) at UBC – NCTR and IRSHDC re calling on the federal government to work in collaboration with residential school Survivors and Indigenous governments to establish a national framework for investigation and protection of burial sites, consistent with the rights, laws, jurisdiction and protocols of the affected Nations.

  • The NCTR and IRSHDC emphasize that all potential residential school burial sites must be investigated and documented. Until such investigations can take place, these sites must be protected from erosion, destruction, manipulation or disturbance.
  • Hiding, damaging, interfering with or destroying the graves of residential school children must be recognized as a crime and prosecuted as such.
  • In addition, national standards must be put in place concerning use of investigative technologies such as ground scanning radar to respect the privacy of affected families and ensure that any evidence of crimes is not compromised.
  • A renewed commitment to ensure the affected Nations have all records related to missing and buried children and documentation where records are absent is urgently required.
  • Finally, all measures to investigate and protect burial sites must be consistent with the rights of Indigenous peoples in domestic and international law, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This includes respect for the decision-making authority of Indigenous governments and the right of Indigenous peoples to control their own lands and territories. The UN Declaration specifically calls on states to work with Indigenous peoples to develop appropriate mechanisms to protect and return human remains.

June 1, 2021


Discoveries of unmarked graves at Residential Schools

Kamloops Indian Residential School

Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation

Toronto Star – In 2009 – when Conservatives were in power – there had been a request for $1.5 million, which would have been used to help locate gravesites, among other things.

The request was denied.

The landmark Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report on the legacy of the residential school system in Canada devoted an entire section to missing children and unmarked burial sites and made six related calls to action.


May 28, 2021


Discoveries of unmarked graves at Residential Schools

Kamloops Indian Residential School

Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation

Toronto Star – The bodies of 215 Indigenous children were discovered in unmarked graves on the grounds of the former Kamloops Residential School located in the territory of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation. The Truth and Reconciliation records the death of 51 children dying at the Kamloops Residential School between 1914 and 1963. The commission noted in its 2015 report that officials in 1918 believed children at the school were not being adequately fed, leading to malnutrition. Ry Moran, founding director of the Nations Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba …said as many as 400 unmarked burial locations are believed to exist across the country, but only about 100 have been identified.

Indigenous Watchdog Background: Three of the Six Calls to Action of “Missing Children and Burial Information” Calls to Action have not even started – six years after the Summary Report of the TRC was first released on June 2, 2015. All three are specifically directed at what the discovery at the former Kamloops Residential School address:

  • Identify child’s burial location and notify families for reburial ceremonies
  • identify, document, maintain, commemorate and protect residential school cemeteries or other sites at which residential school children were buried
  • All Policies and protocols relating to residential school cemeteries are Indigenous led

In Budget 2019, the federal government allocated $33.8M specifically for Calls to Action # 72 “to develop and maintain the National Residential School Student Death Register” and Call to Action # 73 to “establish and maintain an online registry of residential school cemeteries, including where possible, plot maps showing the location of deceased residential school children”.

Of that amount $6.8M was for the Student Death registry and the online registry of residential school cemeteries. (CTV News)The balance was left unallocated until June 2, 2021 when $27M was suddenly made available to “assist Indigenous communities in locating and memorializing children who died at residential schools”.

Six years to the day that those Calls to Action were first issued.


July 13, 2021


Discoveries of unmarked graves at Residential Schools

Kuper Island Indian Residential School

Penelakut First Nation

Toronto Star – Penelakut Tribe Chief Joan Brown “has told surrounding First Nations that it has found the unmarked graves of 160 or more people on the grounds of the former residential school”. Kuper Island School on Penelakut Island was operated by the Catholic Church until 1969. Outbreaks of deadly disease were a persistent issue at the school: typhoid, influenza and smallpox outbreaks… Students also did not receive enough to eat, according to school inspectors… A federal government employees wrote that Indigenous peoples “were inclined to boycott this school on account of so many deaths.”

Sexual abuse and suicides by students have also been recorded there…In 1939, an attempted escape drew attention to abuse. Six boys escaped by canoe and two, who were interviewed by police officers, said they fled because of “unnatural acts” one of the priests had tried with them…(The alleged perpetrators of the abuse having been sent away from B.C. before the investigation concluded.)

Archaeological research there began in 2014 as part of the TRC’s work on missing children. After the TRC reports were completed, a team at the University of British Columbia continued the work of collecting records, interviewing people who live in the village and searching the grounds of the former school using ground-penetrating radar.

Indigenous children from up and down the B.C. coast were sent there, and its remote locations earned it the nickname of “Canada’s Alcatraz”. A community march with neighbouring communities will take place on August 2.


September 30, 2021


Discoveries of unmarked graves at Residential Schools

Marievale Indian Residential School

Cowessess First Nation

Toronto Star – Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme announced the discovery of 751 unmarked graves at the site of the former Marievale Indian Residential School in southeastern Saskatchewan “which operated from 1898 until 1997, and was run by the Catholic Church for most of its history”.

“We will find more bodies and we will not stop until we find all of our children,” he said. “We will do a search of every Indian residential school site and we won’t stop there. We will also search all of the sanatoriums, Indian hospitals, and all of the sites where our people were taken and abused, tortured, neglected and murdered. We will tell the stories of our children, of our people who died, who were killed by the state and the churches and we won’t stop until we locate all of them….” Chief Bobby Cameron, Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.
The grave site in what is now Cowessess First Nation was overseen by the Catholic Church from 1886 — 12 years before Marieval opened — until the 1970s, Delorme said. There had been grave markings at some point, but the church removed them in the 1960s, he said.

Regina Archbishop Don Bolen was not available for an interview Thursday, but in an open letter to Delorme posted to the Archdiocese’s website, Bolen reiterated a previous apology “for the failures and sins of Church leaders and staff in the past towards the people of Cowessess.”

“I know that apologies seem a very small step as the weight of past suffering comes into greater light,” he writes, “but I extend that apology again, and pledge to do what we can to turn that apology into meaningful concrete acts, including assisting in accessing information that will help to provide names and information about those buried in unmarked graves and to stand by you in whatever way you request.”


June 26, 2021


Discoveries of unmarked graves at Residential Schools

Marievale Indian Residential School

Cowessess First Nation

Toronto Star – Chief Cadmus Delorme said the First Nation has since identified about 300 unmarked graves. Not all were believed to belong to children. Catholic Church parishioners are thought to have been buried there, as well as members of neighbouring communities.

The First Nation worked with historical records from the Roman Catholic Church, the RCMP and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada to put names to the unmarked graves. They also relied on people’s oral stories.


June 11, 2021


Misleading update information

Misleading Update Information

The Official website of the Federal Government: “Delivering on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action” stated that the content had been “Modified” when in fact not a single work had changed from the previous update posted on Sept, 5, 2019. Those updates, beginning on June 7 began just 11 days after the discovery of 215 unmarked graves in Kamloops and the resulting outcry over the lack of government actions and resolve in addressing the TRC Calls to Action and, in particular, those relating to Missing Children and Burial Information (C2A 71-76). To deliberately draw attention to “Modified” Calls to Action implies that something has been revised or updated and that there is progress in advancing those specific Calls to Action.

The federal government stated that they had modified the content in seven Calls to Action:

  • Commemoration
  • Justice
  • National Council for Truth and Reconciliation
  • Church Apologies
  • Education for Reconciliation
  • Missing Children and Burial Information
  • National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

The above represent a potential 33 Calls to Action for which the Federal government is directly or jointly accountable. And not a work was actually changed! What does that say about the government’s commitment to honesty, transparency, accountability – and respect.


June 1, 2021


Discoveries of unmarked graves at Residential Schools

Muskowekwan Indian Residential School

CTV News – In 2018 and 2019, the First Nation worked with the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Alberta to use ground-penetrating radar to find unmarked or unidentified graves of children who attended the school.

Through that process, along with water line construction done in the 1990’s, the First Nation has identified at least 35 graves. It said there are likely more still waiting to be found.

“Our elders have told us that there’s a lot of areas here that haven’t been explored and eventually we will do that,” Cynthia Desjarlais, a councillor on Muskowekwan First Nation, said at the ceremony on Tuesday. She said the universities will come back to explore more of the land, but there have been delays due to funding and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) and the Saskatchewan government are calling on the federal government to help fund radar ground searches at residential schools in Saskatchewan. “Then we deal with the findings. Obviously closure and that healing journey would continue for so many families,” FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said. Cameron said he’s proud of Saskatchewan for being one of the first regions to “hit the ground running” with organizing radar ground searching and to have the support of the premier.

“We met and discussed [on Monday] with three radar ground search companies who are ready to do the work,” Cameron said.


March 1, 2022


Discoveries of unmarked graves at Residential Schools

St. Bernard’s IRS (Grouard Mission)

Globe and Mail – The Kapawe’no First Nation in northern Alberta announced on Tuesday the discovery of 169 potential unmarked graves on the former grounds of the St. Bernard’s Indian Residential School (1894-1961), another in a growing number of school burial sites.

Kapawe’no First Nation, located near High Prairie, about 350 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, worked with the Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology at the University of Alberta and used ground-penetrating radar and a specialized drone to help identify anomalies that have traits associated with graves. The search area was determined after reviewing the testimonies of residential-school survivors.

Kapawe’no First Nation searched one acre of land around the St. Bernard’s school over six days. In the first of three phases in the search, they identified 169 potential graves. Of those, 115 were found inside the existing community cemetery, some with no grave markers, while 54 potential graves were located in other areas around the school property.

Kisha Supernant, director of the Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology, says that they do not need ground-penetrating radar results to prove that students did not come home from this school – or that survivors are telling the truth. Extensive archival records contain clear information about children dying in residence there.

“Survivor’s oral history is always backed up by the science,” Dr. Supernant said.

Parish records indicate that children who were believed to have died at the school were buried at the community cemetery, but those potential graves are not specifically marked, and no plot maps have been located.


June 30, 2021


Discoveries of unmarked graves at Residential Schools

St. Eugene Mission School

Ktunaxa Nation, community of Aq’am

Toronto Star – Chief Jason Louie of The Lower Kootenay Band announced that they had discovered “182 sets of human remains in unmarked graves…flagged near the location of a former residential school – St. Eugene Mission School – in Cranbrook, B.C…from the member bands of Ktunaxa nation, and neighbouring First Nation communities”. The former school, which was operated from 1912 to the 70s by the Roman Catholic Church is now St. Eugene Golf Resort and Casino after the school was handed back to the five bands after the school closed.

The community of Aq’am conducted a search of the schoolgrounds using ground-penetrating radar in 2020 and they are still in the early stages of interpreting the reports from those searches. Aq’am released its own statement Wednesday acknowledging that it had conducted the search in 2020 in what is now the aq’am community cemetery — but stressed that it is difficult for them to determine whether this was a site where residential schoolchildren were buried.

“The community of ʔaq̓ am remains steadfast in its responsibility as caretakers of the ʔaq̓ am Cemetery and to those who eternally rest within. Further ground penetrating radar work will be done on the site.”


January 26, 2022


Discoveries of unmarked graves at Residential Schools

St. Josephs’ Mission Residential School

William Lake First Nation

Toronto Star – Chief Willie Sellars of the William Lake First Nation delivered preliminary results from the first phase of an investigation into St. Josephs’ Mission Residential School. 93 potential human burials have been found in an area near a historic cemetery at the school site. Current data suggest that 50 of the potential 93 burials are not associated with the cemetery.

The investigation so far has examined 14 of 470 hectares around the site of the former residential school. Sellars said during the course of its work the investigation team has heard stories of torture, rape, forcible confinement and exposure to extreme conditions, among other abuses. Sellars said religious officials, the federal government and RCMP misled the public about what was happening at residential schools. He said that during the school’s operations, overseen by numerous religious sects but mainly the Catholic Church, children had spoke up to authorities about the conditions at the school. No action was taken, the chief said.

The Williams Lake First Nation is currently examining archives but said some key documents are missing.