Trudeau: Atrocity Isn't an Exception

Canadian leaders call for searches at other former Indigenous schools for buried children
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 31, 2021 4:00 PM CDT
Trudeau: Atrocity Isn't an Exception
People form a circle during the vigil in Toronto on Sunday.   (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday the discovery of the bodies of over 200 children buried at a former Indigenous residential school is not an isolated event. Trudeau's comments come as Indigenous leaders are calling for an examination of every former residential school site—institutions that held children taken from families across the nation. Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation in British Columbia said the remains of 215 children, some as young as 3 years old, were confirmed this month 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, the largest such school in the country. "I am appalled by the shameful policy that stole Indigenous children from their communities," Trudeau said, the AP reports. "Sadly, this is not an exception or an isolated incident. We're not going to hide from that."

Plans are underway to bring in forensics experts to identify and repatriate the remains of the children found buried on the Kamloops site. Trudeau said he'll talk to his ministers about actions his government needs to take to support survivors and the community. Opposition New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh called Monday for an emergency debate in Parliament. "This is not a surprise. This is a reality of residential schools," Singh said. Winnipeg Archbishop Richard Gagnon, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, expressed "our deepest sorrow for the heartrending loss of the children." The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations and the Saskatchewan government want Ottawa to help research undocumented deaths and burials at residential schools in the province. Federation Chief Bobby Cameron said finding remains and giving them proper burials is important to help First Nations communities and families find closure. The federation has compiled a list of sites where it hopes to complete radar ground searches.

(More Canada stories.)

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