The former Kamloops Indian Residential School is seen on Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops, B.C. on Thursday, May 27, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Snucins

Work underway for forensics experts to identify B.C. school remains

The best way forward is to provide supports to the Tk’emlúps nation and those who may have lost a loved one, says Terry Teegee

Plans are being made to identify and return home the remains of more than 200 children found buried at the site of a former residential school in British Columbia’s Interior, says a provincial Indigenous leader.

The Kamloops Indian Band wants to undertake the “heart-wrenching” process to eventually tell the stories of the children and bring peace to their families, said Terry Teegee, Assembly of First Nations regional chief.

The effort could involve the B.C. Coroners Service, the Royal B.C. Museum and forensics experts, he said.

Teegee said he has been meeting with Indigenous leaders from across B.C. to decide what steps to take next.

“Really, I think what needs to occur is perhaps some sort of discovery and perhaps some forensics about who these children were, where are they from if that’s possible,” he said in an interview from Prince George.

“And perhaps repatriation to their respective communities because the students come from not only the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc area but also neighbouring communities and as far north as Fort Nelson,” he said.

Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation said the remains of 215 children, some as young as three years old, were confirmed last weekend with the help of ground-penetrating radar.

She described the discovery as “an unthinkable loss that was spoken about but never documented at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.”

Teegee said he spoke with Casimir about the discovery of the remains and to offer the support of Indigenous leaders and groups from across Canada.

He said they discussed what the best way forward would be to continue the search and provide supports to the Tk’emlúps nation and those who may have lost a loved one.

Casimir said on Friday that more bodies may be found because there are more areas to search in the school grounds.

Teegee said the investigation may require working with the Royal B.C. Museum on how to best manage the area and it could also mean exhuming the remains with the goal of repatriating the children to their communities.

The discovery of the remains confirms the many comments from school survivors about children disappearing, he said.

“I think it speaks to those stories of those children who said, ‘There were always stories of these burials, and whatever happened to this kid who went missing in a supposedly random way,’” he said.

Dan Muzyka, board chair of the Royal BC Museum, said his team is providing support to the Nation by searching records held in the BC Archives for historical information related to deaths or burials at the school.

“The most significant, relevant records in the BC Archives are those of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the religious order that operated the school,” Muzyka said in a statement.

“The museum is committed to fully supporting the Nation through this archival research.”

Prof. Nicole Schabus, of the law faculty at Thompson Rivers University, said each of her first-year law students at the Kamloops university spends at least one day at the former residential school speaking with survivors.

“I’m so grateful to the survivors who had so generously shared their stories,” she said.

Schabus said she did not hear survivors talk about an unmarked grave area, “but they all talk about the kids who didn’t make it.”

Survivors started calling her Thursday when the discovery was made public, saying they can’t sleep because the reports triggered horrible childhood memories, she said.

Teegee said the Kamloops discovery has shed more light on Canada’s dark residential school history.

“This really resurfaces the issue of residential schools and the wounds from this legacy of genocide towards Indigenous people,” he said.

The Kamloops residential school operated between 1890 and 1969. The federal government took over the facility’s operation from the Catholic Church and ran it as a day school until it closed in 1978.

The National Truth and Reconciliation Commission has records of at least 51 children dying at the school between 1915 and 1963.

Canada

Just Posted

Harrison Hot Springs country singer Todd Richard poses for a photo with Mission firefighters. (Photo/Sarah Plawutski)
VIDEO: Harrison country artist Todd Richard plans for a busy, rockin’ summer

Richard and his band look to live shows as restrictions start to lift

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

The theme for this year’s Fraser Valley Regional Library Summer Reading Club is “Crack the Case” and Katie Burns, community librarian at the Chilliwack Library, is encouraging people of all ages to sign up. She is seen here at the Chilliwack Library on Friday, June 18, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Crack the case, read, win prizes with FVRL Summer Reading Club

‘Immerse yourself in other worlds and have a bit of fun while you do it,’ says Chilliwack librarian

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Black Press Media files)
Burnaby RCMP look for witnesses in hit-and-run that left motorcyclist dead

Investigators believe that the suspect vehicle rear-ended the motorcycle before fleeing the scene

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

Most Read