93 potential graves discovered at Canada School site

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Montreal (AFP) – An Indigenous community in Canada has identified nearly 100 “potential” graves at the site of a residential school, months after the discovery of hundreds of remains of children at former residential schools that rocked the country.

The community of Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) said Tuesday that a geophysical survey revealed “93 reflections” with features “indicative of potential human burials” at the former St. Joseph’s Mission boarding school in British Columbia. .

Investigators “surveyed about 14 hectares of the larger 480-hectare site”, which is about 300 kilometers (186 miles) north of Kamloops – where the remains of 215 children were found in May.

Since May, more than 1,000 unmarked graves have been discovered near former “residential schools” run by religious groups, illuminating a dark chapter in Canadian history and its policy of forced assimilation of First Nations peoples.

Thousands of Indigenous children attended St. Joseph’s Mission between 1886 and 1981, when it operated as a boarding school run by various religious sects under a Canadian government system, according to WLFN, a community of about 800 people .

“There is still a lot of work to be done at the St. Joseph site, and we have every intention of continuing that work,” WLFN Chief Willie Sellars said in a statement.

In early January, Ottawa announced funding of C$1.9 million ($1.5 million) for the investigation at St. Joseph’s Mission.

“To date, $116.8 million has been committed to support First Nations, Inuit and Métis survivors, their families and communities and to locate and commemorate missing children who attended residential schools,” said the government in a statement at the time.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that news of the potential graves “brings a lot of painful emotions to the surface.”

“My heart breaks for the members of the community and for those whose loved ones never returned.”

Numerous investigations into former boarding schools are underway across the country, with between 4,000 and 6,000 children missing, according to authorities.

In total, approximately 150,000 Indigenous children were enrolled from the late 1800s to the 1990s in 139 residential schools across Canada, spending months or years isolated from their family, language and culture.

A truth and reconciliation commission concluded in 2015 that the failed government policy amounted to “cultural genocide”.

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