The remains of 215 children, some as young as three years old, were found at the site of what was once Canada’s largest Indigenous residential school.
Reuters reported that the children were students at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia that closed in 1978.
The remains were found with the help of a ground-penetrating radar specialist, according to the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation.
More bodies may be found because there are more areas to search on the school grounds, she told Reuters.
“We know that through (The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada) how many missing children there are, and we know that there is still a lot of work, and we do know that many other first Nations who have had residential schools within their communities want to use new technology to be able to find their lost loved ones as well.”
A 2015 report established that there was harsh mistreatment inflicted on Indigenous children at the institutions.
It said at least 3,200 children had died amid abuse and neglect, and it said it had reports of at least 51 deaths at the Kamloops school alone between 1915 and 1963.
The investigation, according to Reuters documented horrific physical abuse, rape, malnutrition and other atrocities suffered by many of the 150,000 children who attended the schools, typically run by Christian churches on behalf of Ottawa from the 1840s to the 1990s.
“It found more than 4,100 children died while attending residential school. The deaths of the 215 children buried in the grounds of what was once Canada’s largest residential school are believed to not have been included in that figure and appear to have been undocumented until the discovery.”
The Kamloops school operated between 1890 and 1969 when the federal government took over operations from the Catholic Church and operated it as a day school until it closed in 1978.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the discovery as heartbreaking on Friday.
“The news that remains were found at the former Kamloops residential school breaks my heart,” he wrote on Twitter. “It is a painful reminder of that dark and shameful chapter of our country’s history. I am thinking about everyone affected by this distressing news. We are here for you.”
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