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More unmarked graves found on the site of a former residential school

Unmarked grave of nearly 100 first nation children. (AFP: File)

Hundreds if not thousands of indigenous children in Canada were sent off to boarding schools by force and most describe the experience with much horror and consternation: “We didn't know where we were going. We didn't know what was going to happen to us.”

Ripped from their families, the goal of the authorities at the time was to forcibly assimilate them into “Canadian culture". But the fate of many of these children ended in death, their mass graves uncovered to this day, with many calling it genocide.

An indigenous community in Canada has announced the discovery of 93 potential unmarked graves on the site of a former residential school. This is the latest discovery of remains of scores of Indigenous children over the past year.

The Williams Lake First Nation announced that preliminary results of the first phase of a geophysical search at the St. Joseph's Mission residential school uncovered 93 unmarked grave sites to date. All 93 radar scans at the St. Joseph's mission display characteristics indicative of potential human burial sites.

These tragic discoveries are just again part of the scratching the surface, part of the initial finding of these graves. Several hundred have already been found. Tens of thousands of children were forced into these residential schools. Many thousand were never accounted for after they left their homes and went to the schools. So the numbers that we've seen now, numbering in the hundreds, is [sic] sure to grow.

Robert Fantina, Political Analyst

Investigators used a range of geophysical techniques in their search, including ground penetrating radar. Only 14 out of approximately 470 hectares have been searched so far.

Research has uncovered stories of murder, systemic torture, starvation, rape and sexual assault at the residential school. Children endured rotten food, fire hazards overcrowding, pests and illness; there were even reports of students trying to take their own lives. Authorities often chose not to investigate the atrocities.

Hundreds unmarked graves have already been discovered at former residential school sites across Canada since May. it was announced that 215 unmarked graves at the former Kamloops Indian residential school were uncovered.

This is a tragic situation. It's a stain on Canada's history. And it's one that the government must work to ... It can't erase it completely but it must work to assist the survivors and others who are suffering as a result of these horrific policies that the government instituted for a hundred years.

Robert Fantina, Political Analyst

That discovery fueled widespread calls for Justice and Accountability for the victims and survivors of the forced assimilation institutions, as well as demands that the Canadian government released all records pertaining to the facilities

Canada has forced more than 150,000 indigenous children to attend institutions run by various churches, most notably the Roman Catholic Church. The children who were stripped of their languages and culture were also subjected to abuse, rape and malnutrition. Thousands are believed to have died while attending those schools.

It was racist; it was genocidal, certainly cultural genocide, at the time. It was done because the Canadian government wanted a white European based country and the indigenous people didn't, didn't qualify.

So the government decided to force them into that mould, even if it cost them their lives. It certainly damaged their culture, they were deprived of their language, their customs, and they were deprived of family ties.

It was an awful situation that went on, as I mentioned, for a hundred years.

Robert Fantina, Political Analyst

Canada plans to reform its treatment of children of indigenous families. The country promised more than $30 billion to fix the child welfare system, A system which has separated children from their parents.

Even today, the government continues to place many Indigenous children in foster care. Officially, children are separated due to poverty or substance abuse.

The discrimination against indigenous people has not ended.

The government is still resisting providing indigenous people with benefits that they're guaranteed to have under Canadian law. The Trudeau Government continues to oppose those benefits in the courts.

We know that the number of missing and murdered indigenous women is far greater than that of the non Indigenous population. And yet nothing is done about it by anyone outside of the indigenous communities that are impacted.

Robert Fantina, Political Analyst

Census data shows that more than half of the children in Canadian foster homes are indigenous despite making up less than 8% of the country's child population.

Intergenerational trauma linked to St. Joseph's Mission and other residential schools continues to be felt by indigenous people across the country.


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