The remains of 215 children have been discovered on the grounds of a former boarding school set up more than a century ago to assimilate Canada’s indigenous peoples, according to a local tribe.
A specialist used ground-penetrating radar to confirm the remains of the students who attended the school near Kamloops, British Columbia, the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc tribe said in a statement late Thursday.
“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.
The “distressing” discovery of the remains “breaks my heart,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a Twitter message. “It is a painful reminder of that dark and shameful chapter of our country’s history,” he said.
His comments were echoed by Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett who also offered government support to the families and indigenous communities for their “healing as we honour loved ones lost.”
The Kamloops Indian Residential School was the largest of 139 boarding schools set up in the late 19th century, with up to 500 students registered and attending at any one time.
It was operated by the Catholic church on behalf of the Canadian government from 1890 to 1969.
Some 150,000 Indian, Inuit and Metis youngsters in total were forcibly enrolled in these schools, where students were physically and sexually abused by headmasters and teachers who stripped them of their culture and language.
Today those experiences are blamed for a high incidence of poverty, alcoholism and domestic violence, as well as high suicide rates, in their communities.
Its preliminary findings are expected to be released in a report next month, she said.
News Source : News18