New York, 24 June 2021 (dpa/MIA) – Hundreds of unmarked graves have been discovered at another former residential school site in southern Canada.
There are 751 unmarked graves, according to preliminary investigations, Cadmus Delorme, chairman of the Cowessess First Nation, told Canadian media at a press conference on Thursday.
It remains unclear whether those buried at the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan are children or adults.
Earlier, the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan and Canada’s Federation of Sovereign Indigenous First Nations (FSIN) said the discovery was the highest number of such graves found in Canada to date, in comments to local media.
The school site is some 140 kilometres east of the city of Regina. It operated from 1899 to 1997, and the First Nation took over the cemetery from the Catholic Church in the 1970s, according to CBC.
The remains were found after radar was used to search the grounds and a cemetery nearby.
The site is now being treated “like a crime scene,” Delorme said. The graves may once have been marked with headstones that were later removed, he said.
Efforts are now being made to create a memorial listing the names of all those buried there.
The FSIN called the finding a “crime against humanity.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “terribly saddened” by the news in a statement issued on Thursday.
“My heart breaks for the Cowessess First Nation, and for all Indigenous communities across Canada,” he added.
“I recognize these findings only deepen the pain that families, survivors, and all Indigenous peoples and communities are already feeling, and that they reaffirm a truth that they have long known.”
He said the government would continue to provide Indigenous communities across the country with the funding and resources they need to bring such terrible wrongs to light.
Canadian Indigenous groups have called for probes into all of the country’s former residential schools after the discovery of a mass grave of 215 Indigenous children Kamloops Residential School in British Columbia last month.
The Kamloops school operated between 1890 and 1978 under the auspices of the Catholic Church and later the Canadian government.
For decades, thousands of children were taken from their families and placed in residential schools, where they had to learn the traditions of European colonialists and forget their own culture. Violence and sexual abuse were common in the schools.