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

Douglas Denyer walks with his wife Dorothy, who passes away at 90. The long-time resident of Langley and Rotarian since 1984 turned 100 on June 16. He has two sons, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
Celebrating ‘a beautiful life,’ Langley senior turns 100

‘I’ve always tried to help out everyone I can” Douglas Denyer says

Vancouver Giants will return to the ice on Oct. 8, hosting the Prince George Cougars at Langley Events Centre. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
Giants will renew division rivalry with Cougars when season resumes in October

First game at Langley Events Centre since February of last year

A flower-bedecked memorial to one three people who died at the scene of a suspicious house fire in Langley stands outside the burnt-out house in the 19600 block of Wakefield Drive on Monday, June 29, 2020. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)
First hearing for man charged in Langley triple homicide

Kia Ebrahimian faces three counts of second degree murder

Big Splash water park is located in Tsawwassen. (submitted photo)
Big Splash reopens Canada Day with changes to keep the water park ‘safe for everyone’

Executive Hotels & Resorts has owned and operated the attraction since 2017

For more than a year, Rene Doyharcabal and a small group of neighbours in Langley’s Brookswood neighbourhood have been going out every evening to show support for first responders by honking horns and banging pots and drums. Now, a neighbour has filed a noise complaint. (Langley Advance Times file)
Noise complaint filed against nightly show of support for health care workers in Langley

Langley Township contacted group to advise of complaint, but no immediate action is expected

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.’s Indigenous language, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact they recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Green party Leader Annamie Paul speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Paul has survived another day of party strife after a planned ouster shifted course, leaving her with a tenuous grip on power ahead of a likely federal election this year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul blasts ‘racist,’ ‘sexist’ party execs who sought ouster

Fallout has continued, with two of the federal council’s members resigning

Most Read