Potential remains found in 93 spots at B.C. residential school, but some children will be unaccounted for even after investigation
Warning: This article contains details that readers may find disturbing.
An initial report into an investigation at a former residential school in British Columbia suggests the remains of dozens of people may be buried at the site.
Preliminary results of a geophysical examination at the site of the former St. Joseph's Mission Residential School were released during a news conference Tuesday, and included 93 "reflections" observed through ground-penetrating radar.
A section of the first 14 hectares examined was also used as a cemetery at some point. Those involved in the investigation are working to understand how the burials correlate with the cemetery.
Current data suggests 50 of the 93 potential burials are not associated with known graves, meaning they may be unmarked graves associated with the school.
The only way to tell whether those sites do, in fact, contain human remains is exhumation, and next steps are still being discussed, but human remains, caskets and graves can all produce reflections, project lead Whitney Spearing said during a presentation on the initial findings.
The property located near the Williams Lake First Nation operated as a school between 1891 and 1981. The site went by several names during that time, including the Cariboo Indian Industrial School. A farm and ranch were added to the Catholic Oblates' holdings at the site in the 1960s, and were used to sustain the school and staff.
Thousands of Indigenous children were forced to attend the school during that time.
Those behind Tuesday's presentation called it "one small snapshot" into the ongoing investigation, and that the results are preliminary at this stage. Research in Phase 1 included the geophysical examination as well as archival and photographic research and survivor interviews.
The plan for the school site is to search what's left of a 470-hectare area, and it's expected that zone may be expanded based on what is uncovered during further phases of the investigation.
Speaking about the investigation months earlier, Kukpi7 (Chief) Willie Sellars said it has been challenging for members, who are seeing old wounds reopened as they recount stories of abuse.
But he said in November that the information they've provided has been helpful to guide those involved in the technical aspects of the investigation.
On Tuesday, he said that those involved know that many children will remain unaccounted for even after the investigation is done.
Sellars said the bodies of some children were disposed of in rivers, lakes and incinerators.
He said for those children, there will be no headstones, no unmarked graves, no small fragments of bone to be forensically tested and, for their families, no closure.
"As is the case with many residential schools in Canada, the real story of what occurred at the St. Joseph's Mission has been intentionally obscured," Sellars said.
"There is clear evidence that religious entities, the federal government and the RCMP have knowingly participated in the destruction of records and the cover-up of criminal allegations."
He said there were decades of reports filed about neglect, abuse, deaths and disappearances at the school.
"For the bulk of St. Joseph's Mission history, these reports were at best given no credence. At worst, there was something darker going on in an effort to suppress the emergence of the truth."
At many of these schools, those who attended said they knew what went on but weren't believed.
Many Canadians weren't aware of these stories until a finding in May 2021, also at a B.C. residential school, that shocked the public and forced acknowledgement of the country's past.
CHILD'S RIB BONE PROMPTED FIRST SEARCH
The update comes after a discovery last year of what are believed to be approximately 200 unmarked graves on the grounds of a residential school in Kamloops, about 300 kilometres southeast of Williams Lake.
The search at that site, in an area that once was an orchard, was prompted by the discovery of a child's rib bone. The discovery in that location matched memories of survivors, who described children as young as six being woken up during the night and made to dig graves in the orchard.
That investigation is ongoing. The last update, in July, included that an area of nearly 650,000 square metres still needed to be surveyed.
An expert involved in the search of the area with ground-penetrating radar said it can be challenging to know if what analysts are seeing is a grave, prior to exhumation, when there is no casket, suggesting it would be some time before the total number of unmarked graves could be confirmed.
The findings at what was Canada's largest residential school sparked searches at the sites of former schools across the country, leading to similar discoveries elsewhere in B.C. and in other provinces.
CALLS FOR APOLOGIES, ACTION
The Pope has been invited by the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation to visit the site if he travels to Canada in the "context of the long-standing pastoral process of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples."
A statement from the Vatican suggested the Pope is willing to do so, but did not commit to a date. The Pope expressed sorrow over the discoveries at residential schools – which were news to some, but confirmed what many survivors had known for decades – but has stopped short of directly apologizing for the role the Catholic Church played in the school system.
Tuesday's update also comes just days after a promise from Ottawa to release a mass of records related to residential schools.
Governments and churches that ran the schools have been under pressure to provide the records since the first report about the Kamloops Indian Residential School was released, but did not agree to the release until Thursday.
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller signed a memorandum of understanding on that day, outlining how and when the records will be released.
Thousands of pages of documents are expected to contain details on how children ended up in unmarked graves. For years, officials including the prime minister claimed all documents had been released, but those statements were untrue.
The process may take as long as six months, and resources will be required to comb through the documents, which need to be handled with care, but more will be released to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at some point.
For support for residential school survivors or others, contact the Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society at 1-800-721-0066 or www.irsss.ca.
With files from The Canadian Press and CTV News Vancouver's Alyse Kotyk and Bhinder Sajan
Vancouver Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
By now it's as predictable as the calls for thoughts and prayers: A mass shooting leaves many dead, and wild conspiracy theories and misinformation about the carnage soon follow. Within hours of Tuesday's school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, another rash began as internet users spread baseless claims about the man named as the gunman and his possible motives.
Canada is committing an extra $1 million to help the international community investigate sex crimes by Russian troops in Ukraine. Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said Canada would give the extra funds to the International Criminal Court to help it investigate sexual violence toward women, and also crimes against children.
Conservative Party of Canada leadership hopefuls Scott Aitchison, Roman Baber, Patrick Brown, Jean Charest, Leslyn Lewis, and Pierre Poilievre squared off in the second official party debate on Wednesday night in Laval, Que.
Several parts of the country, including British Columbia and Canada's Maritime provinces, are likely to see wetter-than-normal conditions this summer, according to AccuWeather's annual summer forecast.
Families are sharing photos and stories of their loved ones, who lost their lives in a mass shooting in Texas that killed at least 19 children and two adults on Tuesday afternoon.
Frustrated onlookers urged police officers to charge into the Texas elementary school where a gunman's rampage killed 19 children and two teachers, witnesses said Wednesday, as investigators worked to track the massacre that lasted upwards of 40 minutes and ended when the 18-year-old shooter was killed by a U.S. Border Patrol team.
During an appearance on ABC's Good Morning America on Wednesday, adopted siblings Hannah Raleigh of Chicago and Limia Ravart of Montreal met in person for the first time after an ancestry test confirmed the two are in fact related.
A fire in the neonatal unit of a hospital in Senegal has killed 11 newborns, President Macky Sall said. Only three infants could be saved.
The circumstantial evidence against Nathan Carman had been lying in plain sight for years before his surprising indictment and arrest this month on allegations he killed his mother at sea off New England in a plot to inherit millions of dollars.
Authorities are investigating Wednesday after the body of a porpoise was discovered on a beach near Victoria.
Victoria police say three men were arrested after a random bear spray attack occurred on Monday.
A British Columbia company that was once at the forefront of the booming plant-based meats industry is shuttering stores and production plants as it struggles to survive.
The City of Calgary has recruited three people from the commercial real-estate sector in an effort to get a new event centre to replace the aging Scotiabank Saddledome.
After a massacre at a Texas elementary school, some are looking into safety protections against gun violence in Calgary's school system while mental health experts are offering advice for difficult conversations about mass shootings.
Those who haven't received their bill by the first week of June are asked to contact 311.
If you visit downtown Edmonton in the next 11 days, you might see some strange and unusual sights. Art installations and musical performances are popping up throughout the area as part of Downtown Spark.
Even though they cheer for opposite teams, a proposal by a Flames fan at Game 4 of the Battle of Alberta received a resounding "yes" from the Oilers-loving bride to be.
The body of a missing canoer has been located in northeast Alberta.
Was your home damaged by the Ontario storm? Insurance companies say payouts could take weeks to process
The insurance industry says it could take up to six weeks to get an idea of how many hundreds of millions of dollars in pay outs will be required from the weekend storm that brought death and destruction to Ontario and Quebec, but that early estimates are substantial.
Police have released new video of a recent incident in which a vehicle was caught doing doughnuts and speeding along the shoulder of busy Ontario roadways.
People all across Ontario are getting creative when it comes to netting a secondary income, otherwise known as a “side hustle,” and many are turning to secondhand economies thriving on online platforms.
Quebec politicians were not pleased with the federal Liberals' comments on Bill 96 and Bill 21, firing back with a slew of protests and even raising sovereignty as the solution.
Quebec's public health department is set to give its first press conference on the growing monkeypox outbreak as the province recorded its 16th confirmed case Wednesday.
Several of the six aspiring Conservative leaders expressed their opposition to Bill 96 during a French-language debate in Laval on Wednesday night, but others shied away from the opportunity to express their views on the issue.
The Manitoba Government could turn to the military for help as it struggles with staffing shortages, overcrowding, and in some cases, temporary closures of emergency rooms.
The Manitoba government is hinting it may allow more alcohol sales through private channels to boost customer convenience.
Hundreds of residents in River Park South were left without power Wednesday evening after a pole was knocked down on St. Anne's Road.
The Prime Minister toured the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization, which is working to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.
Saskatoon Police Service says that the use and presence of potent new synthetic opioids known as nitazenes are difficult to track and monitor.
A 48-year-old semi-truck driver was killed in in a rollover near Meadow Lake on Tuesday.
'All it takes is one': Sask. RCMP partner with Washington police to publicize disappearance of Mekayla Bali
Saskatchewan RCMP and the Washington State Patrol announced a collaboration of efforts to locate Mekayla Bali, who was 16-years-old when she was last on April 12, 2016 in Yorkton.
A new art exhibit at the George Bothwell Library is hoping to examine and remove the feeling of shame associated with people who are deaf and hard of hearing.
For those looking to hop the border into Manitoba for their camping seasons, it started off on the wrong foot for Duck Mountain Provincial Park.
As the inquiry into Nova Scotia’s mass shooting moves its public proceedings to Truro, many of the family members affected by the tragedy and their lawyers are boycotting the proceedings over the next week.
Former Chief Anchor Steve Murphy offers a timely perspective on the Mass Casualty Commission and the difference 30 years after the Westray inquiry.
Speaking off-script at an event in Halifax Wednesday morning, Canada's Minister of Public Safety said he was gutted by the latest mass shooting south of the border - the 27th in a school this year alone.
Victoria Day weekend fireworks violations spark new effort to implement a ban.
Two men and one woman are facing charges Wednesday after police say their vehicle struck a London police cruiser and then the suspects fled the scene on foot over the weekend.
OPP and Southwest Middlesex fire are on the scene of a fatal collision Wednesday afternoon involving a tanker truck and a passenger vehicle.
Sault Ste. Marie city council is asking staff to prepare a report on group homes. This comes after Ward 1 Coun. Paul Christian brought forward concerns this week about two such homes.
There are currently a dozen statues at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes property, and all are from the 1950s.
It’s a sign that summer is on the horizon. Farmers’ markets are opening in cities and towns across the north.
New details are emerging about the tragic incident that killed 27-year-old Shelby Humble-Neale on Saturday.
Waterloo regional police say evidence of gunfire found in McLennan Park in Kitchener is connected to another shooting incident in the nearby area of Windflower Drive and Windflower Crescent.
Two 29-year-old men have been seriously injured following a collision in Baden, Ont., with one needing to be airlifted to a hospital outside the region.