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

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

CVSAR search the Puntledge River following a report of an abandoned kayak. Photo, CVSAR Facebook page
Comox Valley Search and Rescue spends four hours searching for no one

Overturned kayak a reminder for public to contact officials if they have to abandon a watercraft

Tyson Muzzillo, regional manager of BC Cannabis Store, welcomes shoppers to their Uptown location, opening on June 16. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Government-run cannabis store opening at Saanich’s Uptown

BC Cannabis Store the first for government in Greater Victoria, 27th in province

Processed sewage is still being deposited at the Hartland landfill rather than sent as biosolids to a Richmond cement plant. (Black Press Media file photo)
Treated sewage bound for dump until CRD upgrades processing to required standard

Richmond cement plant up and running, but CRD end product not suitable for purpose

Threads N Tails owner Lee-Ann Burke’s pet clothing has been featured on the cover of the June/July issue of Pet Connection Magazine. (Submitted)
Lake Cowichan business featured on magazine cover

Lee-Ann Burke hopes the extra publicity will increase sales

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers tested more than 230 commonly used cosmetics and found that 56% of foundations and eye products, 48% of lip products and 47% of mascaras contained high levels of fluorine

Most Read