Due to lack of records, identification of children’s remains at BC boarding school has stalled

Warning: This story contains some details that may be painful for readers.

The director of the History and Dialogue Center of the Indian Boarding School at the University of British Columbia said that the lack of access to records and first-hand data will hinder the ability to identify the remains of children found at the former boarding school in Kamloops.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said that for more than 20 years, the federal government and the church have been fighting to provide school records to groups working to identify victims of the boarding school system.

“It’s too frustrating. It’s too frustrating for the community, it’s too frustrating for the family, it’s something that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has been fighting for every year of its existence,” she Said in an interview.

She said that the “shocking” responses of politicians and church officials to this discovery sounded hollow because indigenous peoples have been trying to raise awareness of this issue for years.

Indigenous children from 36 communities in the interior of British Columbia were recorded as attending Kamloops School, and data collected by the History and Dialogue Center listed 38 other communities where children were sent to school between 1943 and 1952.

These children “have human rights”

Turpel-Lafond, a lawyer and former judge of Kerry and Scottish descent, said she had also heard anecdotal evidence that children from Alberta and Yukon attended the school, which had its peak enrollment in the 1950s. Up to 500 people in the period.

It was operated by the Catholic Church as a boarding school from 1890 to 1969, and was later taken over by the federal government as a local day school until 1978.

Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation stated last week, A ground penetrating radar expert found the remains of 215 children at the scene During the initial scan.

Photo experts at the memorial outside the former Kamloops Indian boarding school in British Columbia said that the inability to obtain records and first-hand data may hinder the ability to identify the children’s remains. (Darryl Dyke/Canada Press)

Turpel-Lafond said that identifying the remains must compare sources, including oral history, church records, records from local authorities, and lists of children who may return to their communities within a year.

She said: “For me, the deceased and others in this Kamloops school enjoy human rights. We have an obligation to make them respect the deceased and take practical measures to deal with the insults that may be caused.” To them and their bodies Done. “

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has records 51 children died in school.

The missionary refused to release the record

Turpel-Lafond said that the Indigenous communities are still competing in court with the federal government and the Catholic Church for school records.

The Consecration of the Missionaries of the Immaculate Conception opened about 47% of boarding schools in Canada, including one in Kamloops. Oblates refused to publish their records to help identify the remains found, and did not respond to requests for comment on the matter.

Oblates Governor Fr Ken Tolson said in a statement earlier this week that the order is gradually deepening “awareness” of the harm caused by colonization to the indigenous people and its role.

Archbishop J. Michael Miller of the Archdiocese of Vancouver said that Catholic organizations should publish their records.

“We will be completely transparent about the files and records of all boarding schools, and strongly urge all other Catholic and government organizations to do the same,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

After the preliminary results of a radar survey of the site of the former Kamloops Indian boarding school, the Archbishop of Vancouver J. Michael Miller “deeply apologized” to the indigenous people. (Archdiocese of Vancouver)

Even if this information is available, forensic human identification experts say that the community faces further obstacles in finding relevant DNA comparisons to identify victims whose immediate descendants are no longer alive.

Megan Bassendale, director of Vancouver-based Forensic Guardians International, said the DNA analysis process takes time.

“It’s long, expensive, and it has to be done very well the first time. If you lose the trust of your family, it’s over,” said Basendale, who had previously worked to help identify the former mass graves. The remains found in the ruins. The Soviet Union joined the republic.

Complex process

She added that on a website that has been in operation for decades, it can be difficult to find close DNA data, such as the victim’s mother or father, or to identify features from health and dental records.

Bassendale said that this may require scientists to test the DNA of the parent family to narrow the scope of the person, which is a more complicated process.

However, she hopes to find her identity.

“We know how to do this; it’s not new. It’s not even uncommon,” Bathendale said. “It’s not common in Canada.”

Turpel-Lafond said that if the group cooperates, she can find optimistic answers.

“Can it be done? Yes,” she said. “I am absolutely confident [we could do it] If we have access to all records, government records, oral history and we have someone to cooperate. “


Anyone affected by the boarding school experience and those affected by the latest report can receive support.

A nationwide Indian boarding school crisis hotline has been established to provide support to former students and those affected. People can call the 24-hour national crisis hotline: 1-866-925-4419 for emotional and crisis referral services.

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