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
Three months after the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, many ordinary Russians are reeling from those blows to their livelihoods and emotions. Moscow's vast shopping malls have turned into eerie expanses of shuttered storefronts once occupied by Western retailers.
Justice Mahmud Jamal sat down with CTV National News' Omar Sachedina for an exclusive interview ahead of the one-year anniversary of his appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada. Jamal is the first person of colour to sit on the highest court in the country, bringing it closer to reflecting the diversity of Canada.
China is trying to navigate its biggest coronavirus outbreak without a tool it could have adopted many months ago, the kind of vaccines that have proven to offer the best protection against the worst outcomes from COVID-19.
'Too many children did not make it home': Anniversary of discovery at Canada's largest residential school
It's been a year since the announcement of the detection of unmarked graves at the site of what was once Canada's largest residential school – an announcement that for many Indigenous survivors was confirmation of what they already knew.
The United States and four other nations that walked out of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group meeting in Bangkok over the weekend underlined their support Monday for host nation Thailand, saying their protest was aimed solely at Russia because of its invasion of Ukraine.
Police say they’ve made 19 arrests and seven officers were injured after a violent night at Toronto’s Woodbine Beach that saw two people shot, one person stabbed, two others robbed at gunpoint and running street battles involving fireworks through Sunday evening.
A theory that the recent outbreak of monkeypox may be tied to sexual activity has put the gay community in an unfortunate position, having fought back against previous and continued stigma around HIV and AIDS, an LGBTQ2+ centre director says.
Hydro Ottawa says the damage from Saturday's storm is "simply beyond comprehension", and is "significantly worse" than the 1998 ice storm and the tornadoes that hit the capital three years ago.
The BC Conservation Officer Service is warning residents of Port Hardy to "take precautions" after a man had an encounter with "an aggressive black bear" in the district on Friday.
Calling it racist and shameful, the prime minister issued a statement Monday on the anniversary of one of Canada's darker historical chapters.
Mounties on the Mid-Island are asking the public for help identifying a man suspected of robbing a bank in Parksville last week.
Alberta cabinet minister Doug Schweitzer announced Monday evening he would not seek the United Conservative Party's top job or run for re-election.
The wreckage of a small plane that disappeared last month in northern Ontario with two men aboard has been located in Lake Superior Provincial Park.
EMS took a man to hospital suffering "traumatic injuries" after a shooting on 17th Avenue S.W. on Monday.
As the city rallies behind the Edmonton Oilers taking the lead in the Battle of Alberta playoff edition, other playoff games are also being played at Rogers Place.
A head-on collision in Sturgeon County involving a motorcyclist and an SUV is under investigation, with police saying that impairment is believed to be a factor.
RCMP officers are searching the Athabasca River in northeast Alberta for a missing canoer last seen around 12:15 p.m. on Saturday.
Crews continue to try and restore power to more than 182,000 customers across Ontario after a storm ripped through the province over the weekend, leaving at least 10 people dead.
Three of Ontario's four main parties are pledging to reverse cuts to the province's student assistance program, but they've all attached different price tags to the promise.
After this weekend's fierce storm, some Quebecers are being told to hunker down and get ready to live on generators, or without power, for several weeks.
Hydro-Quebec says that at the height of the storm, 550,000 customers were without power.
The first of three charter flights bringing Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russia's invasion to Canada has landed in Manitoba this afternoon.
Officers with the Manitoba RCMP have charged a 30-year-old man with manslaughter following a fatal assault at a Thompson, Man., hotel.
Timothy Atik (Tik) Mason has fond childhood memories of boarding large aircraft that would take him from Winnipeg to loved ones in his home community of St. Theresa Point First Nation in northern Manitoba.
Saskatoon police have arrested a 35-year-old man in connection to the May 19 homicide of 29-year-old Brandon Baxandall.
A healthy competition has been brewing at Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp over the weekend.
The Victoria Day long weekend marks the unofficial start of summer with many outdoor events such as festivals, parades and other activities.
The seat currently held by the Saskatchewan NDP leader Ryan Meili will be up for grabs within six months of his resignation.
A healthy competition has been brewing at Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp over the weekend.
When students in Nova Scotia return to school on Tuesday after the Victoria Day long weekend, wearing masks will be optional.
A 19-year-old man has died following a single-vehicle collision in Shediac Cape, N.B.
The generosity of several New Brunwickers will help ease the financial pressure of attending prom next month.
Fans at Labatt Park in London, Ont. got to see a former major league baseball player compete against their hometown team Monday afternoon.
Cleanup is still underway from Saturday’s massive storm that hit Southwestern Ontario, and not everyone in the region has their power restored.
London fire crews arrived to heavy smoke and flames Monday morning at the Cargill poultry processing plant.
L'Arche Sudbury, an organization in the city that builds a community for people with and without disabilities, is holding a big fundraiser next weekend.
Experts are applauding the federal government's call for proposals for the Critical Minerals Research, Development and Development Program.
Researchers in the north are warning one of Canada's "most invasive plants" could be popping up this summer.
The woman killed at Pinehurst Lake Conservation Area during Saturday's storm has now been identified as Shelby Humble-Neale of Brantford.
'We want to give her her name back': OPP plea for information in death of young girl found in the Grand River
Ontario provincial police are asking for the public’s help, as they continue to investigate the death of a young girl whose body was found in the Grand River in Dunnville.
Kitchener's statue of Queen Victoria has been splattered with red paint several times over the past year, and on the holiday marking her reign, the calls to have the controversial monument removed continue.