Jun 1, 2021 - World

Canada's Trudeau pledges to search for more Indigenous children's graves

Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister, speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Friday, May 7
Canada's Prime Minister Trudeau during a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, earlier this month. Photo: David Kawai/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged Monday to help after Indigenous leaders called for residential school grounds across Canada to be searched for mass graves after the remains of 215 children were uncovered at a school site.

Driving the news: Trudeau noted during a Monday briefing on last week's discovery at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia that "sadly, this is not an exception or an isolated incident" and finding other mass grave sites was "an important part of discovering the truth."

Zoom in: Trudeau said the government would do more, without elaborating further, and said the government was "committed to helping" Indigenous communities.

  • "As they make requests, as there is a need for discovering more, we will continue to be there," he added.
  • "We haven't looked at exactly what the processes, or the needs are entirely, but Canada will be there to support indigenous communities as we discover the extent of this trauma."

The big picture: Many of the approximately 150,000 children from 1883 to 1996 forced to "assimilate" into white Canadian society by attending the schools faced neglect and abuse in what Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission determined in 2015 was a "cultural genocide."

  • A report by the commission, titled "Missing Children and Unmarked Burials," found some 3,200 children had died at school sites, with parents speaking of "children who went to school and never returned." Another 900 kids have since been identified, Reuters notes.

What they're saying: Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, said it's "absolutely essential that there be a national program to thoroughly investigate all residential school sites in regard to unmarked mass graves," per Reuters.

  • Federation chief Bobby Cameron said locating and burying the remains of missing children was "important to help First Nations communities and families find closure," the Guardian reports.
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