MONTREAL (AFP) – An Indigenous community in Canada has identified nearly 100 “potential” graves at a residential school site, months after the discovery of hundreds of children’s remains at former boarding schools rocked the country.
The Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) community said on Tuesday that a geophysical survey revealed “93 reflections” with characteristics “indicative of potential human burials” at the former St Joseph’s Mission residential school in British Columbia.
Investigators “surveyed approximately 14 hectares of the broader 480-hectare site”, which is about 300 kilometres north of Kamloops – where the remains of 215 children were found in May.
Since May, more than 1,000 anonymous graves have been found near former “Indian residential schools” run by religious groups, shedding light on a dark chapter in Canadian history and its policy of forced assimilation of First Nations people.
Thousands of Indigenous children attended St Joseph’s Mission between 1886 and 1981 when it operated as a residential school run by various religious sects as part of a Canadian government system, according to WLFN, a community of around 800 people.
“There is much more work to do on the St Joseph’s site, and we have every intention of continuing with this work,” WLFN Chief Willie Sellars said in a statement.
In early January, Ottawa announced CND1.9 million in funding for the investigation at St Joseph’s mission.
“To date, USD116.8 million has been committed to support First Nation, Inuit and Metis Survivors, their families and communities and go toward locating and commemorating missing children who attended residential schools,” the government said in a statement at the time.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday that the news of the potential graves “brings a lot of distressing emotions to the surface”.