© Reuters. Children’s shoes line the base of the statue of Ryerson University’s Egerton Ryerson, considered an architect of Canada’s indigenous residential school system, following the discovery of the remains of 215 children at the British Columbia site.
By Anna Mehler Paperny and Nia Williams (NYSE 🙂
TORONTO (Reuters) – The discovery of the remains of 215 children in a former residential school in Canada has reopened wounds for survivors of the system, they said, as the government pledged to spend previously promised money to search for more unmarked graves. .
The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Indian nation in British Columbia announced last week that it had found the remains of 215 children, some as young as three, buried at the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, once the largest school. from Canada.
Between 1831 and 1996, Canada’s residential school system forcibly separated some 150,000 children from their homes and subjected them to abuse, rape and malnutrition in schools across the country in what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 he called it “cultural genocide.”
Run by the government and church groups, the stated goal of the schools was to assimilate indigenous children.
Saa Hiil Thut, who spent her adolescence at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, remembers hunger, loneliness and fear.
“My life became hateful to me,” the 72-year-old St’at’imc Nation member told Reuters. He was sexually abused by one of the staff members, he said, and remembers lying on the bed in the silent bedroom, crying.
“I couldn’t help but think that it was the monsters that did this, put the bodies in an unmarked grave.”
Amid mounting outrage, the federal government said Wednesday that it will urgently disburse the money promised two years ago to indigenous communities who want to search the children’s remains in the old schools.
In 2019, the government pledged C $ 33.8 million ($ 28.1 million) over three years to support, among other things, locating the bodies of children attending schools. Of that, C $ 27.1 million has yet to be spent.
‘I DESTROY MY LIFE’
Elizabeth Prosser, the youngest of 13, was the only one of her siblings who did not attend Kamloops Indian Residential School.
But the now 55-year-old, a member of the Tsal’alh nation, felt the ripple effect of the school. Two of his older brothers, subjected to verbal, physical and sexual abuse at school, gave him that treatment, he said.
“It just tore us apart. When do we get compensated for things like that? … It destroyed my life.”
Marta Hurtado, a spokeswoman for the UN Human Rights Office, called the discovery of the school “shocking” and called on the Canadian government to “redouble efforts to find the whereabouts of the missing children, including searching unidentified graves.”
He also asked for a legal entity to protect and manage the cemeteries.
Judy Wilson, head of the Neskonlith Indian Band, said her father was five years old and was fishing for trout with his older sister, when the local Indian agent grabbed them, put them on a cattle cart and took them to Kamloops.
He was separated from his sister, shaved, deloused and beaten for speaking his own language.
Wilson said he wants to see an independent investigation of this burial site and others, possibly involving the United Nations.
“This is a larger story beyond residential schools. They collapsed our family structures, our government, our nations, our communities. It is a sham that our children bore the brunt of that genocide,” he said.
“Our towns were like ghost towns, without children.”