Actions and Commitments

Call to Action # 76: Missing Children and Burial Information (71-76)

What comes next in the search for missing residential school children?

April 13, 2024

The completed ground-penetrating radar surveys in B.C. are the first steps in a complex process

Houses are in the distance on an island with water in the foreground and mountains in the background.
The Ahousaht First Nation released findings on April 10 from their ground-penetrating radar search for possible graves of missing residential school children. (Chris Corday/CBC)

CBC Indigenous: The ʕaaḥuusʔath (Ahousaht) First Nation released findings this week from the first phase of its search for missing children who attended two residential schools in its territory in B.C.

They are one of several First Nations and Indigenous communities across the country using ground-penetrating radar to identify potential unmarked grave locations at the sites of former residential schools.

More than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were forced to attend church-run, government-funded residential schools between the 1870s and 1997. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation estimated that more than 4,100 children died while attending the schools. 

The Ahousaht First Nation said the team went over the ground surveys it conducted, as well as archival research and oral history from both Ahousaht Indian Residential School on Maaqutusiis (Flores Island) and the Christie Indian Residential School on Hilth hoo is (Meares Island), located on ̣ʕaaḥuusʔath territory, about 220 kilometres northwest of Victoria. 

Potential unmarked grave locations were noted near both Ahousaht Indian Residential School and the Christie Indian Residential School. 

However, the radar does not find human remains. It detects soil disturbances that are inconsistent with the surrounding area, which combined with community knowledge can help identify where there may potentially be unmarked graves.

No First Nations in B.C. have yet taken the step of excavating these sites and the decision about whether to do so is a difficult one that requires planning and consultation with communities and families.

What comes next in the search for missing residential school children?

The CBC’s Wawmeesh Hamilton discusses what comes next:

4 days ago, Duration 2:47

The Ahousaht First Nation are the latest to release findings from their search for missing children who attended residential schools. The CBC’s Wawmeesh Hamilton explains the situation and asks what is next for sites where ground surveys indicate the possibility of unmarked graves.

Click on the following link to view the video:

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available to provide support for survivors and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour service at 1-866-925-4419.

Mental health counselling and crisis support are also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the Hope for Wellness hotline at 1-855-242-3310 or by online chat.


Wawmeesh Hamilton, Indigenous Affairs Reporter

Wawmeesh Hamilton is an award winning Indigenous affairs reporter with CBC Vancouver. He reports on Indigenous people, communities and issues in B.C. and across Canada. His work about Indigenous people and reconciliation has also been published on CBC the National, CBC Radio, CBC Online and CBC Indigenous. His radio documentary Not Alone (CBC The Current) won the 2020 Jack Webster Award for best feature and enterprise reporting. Wawmeesh is a graduate of the UBC Graduate School of Journalism (2016). He lives in Vancouver and is a member of the Hupacasath First Nation in Port Alberni, B.C.