Canadian Prime Minister: “Heartbreaks” with discovery of more Aboriginal graves
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his ‘heart is breaking’ after more anonymous graves are found on the grounds of an Indigenous residential school in the southern Gulf Islands off the coast of British Columbia.
The Penelakut Tribe say more than 160 undocumented and unmarked graves have been found at the site of the former Indian Industrial School on Kuper Island.
“I recognize that these findings only add to the pain that families, survivors and all Indigenous peoples and communities are already feeling as they reaffirm the truth they have long known,” Trudeau said in a statement. press conference Tuesday in Ottawa.
âTo the members of the Penelakut tribe, we are here for you. We cannot bring back those who are lost, but we can and will continue to speak the truth, âTrudeau said.
The Penelakut Tribe issued a letter saying the graves were found on the grounds of the former residential school on what is now known as Penelakut Island, between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia, approximately 78 miles (126 kilometers) southwest of Vancouver.
âWe understand that many of our brothers and sisters from our neighboring communities attended the Kuper Island Industrial School,â said the letter from Chief Joan Brown. “We also recognize, with a tremendous amount of grief and loss, that too many people have not returned home.”
The Kuper Island Indian Industrial School was operated by the Roman Catholic Church from 1890 to 1969, when the federal government took over. The school was closed in 1975 and the building was demolished in the 1980s.
Trudeau said the federal government will work with Indigenous peoples to address discrimination and systemic racism.
Almost 1,000 anonymous graves have been discovered at the sites of former residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan in recent months.
In July, ground-penetrating radar found 182 human remains near a former residential school in Cranbrook, British Columbia, 524 miles (843 kilometers) east of Vancouver.
A week earlier, the Cowessess First Nation, located about 135 kilometers east of Saskatchewan’s capital Regina, said investigators had found “at least 600” unmarked graves at the site of a former Marieval Indian boarding school.
In May, the remains of 215 children, some of whom were only 3 years old, were found buried at the site of what was once Canada’s largest Indigenous residential school near Kamloops, B.C., 220 miles ( 354 kilometers) east of Vancouver.
From the 19th century to the 1970s, more than 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend state-funded Christian schools, the majority of them run by Roman Catholic missionary congregations, as part of a campaign to assimilate them into Canadian society.
The Canadian government has admitted that physical and sexual abuse is rampant in schools, with students beaten for speaking their mother tongue.
Two New Democratic Party MPs have called on the federal government to investigate allegations of “crimes against humanity” at residential schools.