Remains of 215 First Nations children found in B.C.

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The remains of 215 First Nations children were found in the B.C. residential school in Kamloops.

The Tk’emlps te Secwépemc First Nation has located the remains of 215 First Nations children. Tk’emlps te Secwépemc used ground-penetrating radar to search the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. The First Nation also stated that the language and culture department oversaw the operation to ensure respect to the remains. Whether the operation involved an entire company or a list of individuals is unknown.

Tk’emlps te Secwépemc’s Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir stated: “To our knowledge, these missing children are undocumented deaths”. She also said some of the remains were of children as young as three. “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”, said Casimir.

Now the priority is to honor the victims of this unspeakable and horrific discovery. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced a nationwide lowering of the flags to half-mast.

Prime Minister Trudeau announcing the lowering of flags to half-mast.

‘Not an isolated incident’, say indigenous experts

After the discovery, the country went from disbelief to horror, to grief, and finally to mobilization to uncover the truth. Nonetheless, First Nations and indigenous experts are warning this is not an ‘isolated incident’. For example, Linc Kesler, director of the First Nations House of Learning, stated it’s only a matter of time before the same type of technology reveals similar horrors.

Even though the government acknowledged and respected the grief from the discovery, it has still not confirmed whether it will assist First Nations in further searches across the country. The Kamloops Indian Residential School was in operation since 1890. The Catholic Church managed the school until 1969 when the Federal Government took over before fully closing it in 1978.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, director of Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre in Vancouver, stated that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up in 2008 to investigate what happened in residential schools. She also stated that, to her knowledge, up to 50 deaths occurred in Kamloops. Yet historical records present a “massive and ongoing problem”, according to her. This is because “certain Catholic entities” won’t release documents and will not cooperate in uncovering what truly happened in Kamloops and dozens of other residential schools.