Preliminary findings from a survey of the grounds at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, Canada, have uncovered the remains of 215 children buried at the site, the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation said stated in a press release last week.
The First Nation said the remains were confirmed last weekend near the city of Kamloops, in B.C.'s southern Interior. In the statement, Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc said it hired a specialist in ground-penetrating radar to carry out the work.
"To our knowledge, these missing children are undocumented deaths," Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir said in the statement.
"Some were as young as three years old. 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."
As reported by CBC, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says more support for survivors of residential schools are coming following the heartbreaking report of the discovery of children's remains in Kamloops, B.C.
"Sadly, this is not an exception or an isolated incident. We're not going to hide from that. We have to acknowledge the truth. Residential schools were a reality — a tragedy that existed here, in our country, and we have to own up to it”, Trudeau said.
Rosanne Casimir told CBC that the findings are "preliminary" and a report will be provided by the specialist next month. The Liberal government is under mounting pressure to announce concrete steps following last week's news.
Call for action
"Our government will continue to engage with the communities on the development of culturally appropriate approaches to identifying these children, locating burial sites and commemorating and memorializing those who died or went missing attending these schools", Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett told a Senate committee hearing this week.
The Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) is calling on both the federal government and the Roman Catholic Church to take action. Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir also has said the federal government should take immediate steps.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) issued a statement Monday calling the discovery of the remains "shocking."
"It rekindles trauma in numerous communities across this land. Honouring the dignity of the lost little ones demands that the truth be brought to light," said Richard Gagnon, the group's president.
The Kamloops Indian Residential School:
The Kamloops Indian Residential School was opened, under Roman Catholic administration, in 1890, as part of the Canadian Indian residential school system.
Located in Kamloops, British Columbia, it became the largest school in the Indian Affairs residential school system.
Enrolment peaked in the early 1950s at 500. In 1910, the principal said that the government did not provide enough money to properly feed the students.
In 1924 a portion of the school was destroyed by fire. In 1969, the federal government took over the administration of the school, which no longer provided any classes and operated it as residence for students attending local day schools until 1978, when the residence was closed.
The school building still stands today, and is located on the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation.
In May 2021, the remains of 215 children buried in a mass grave were found at the site.