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A woman mourns beside 215 pairs of children's shoes outside Vancouver Art Gallery during a memorial in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Saturday, after a mass grave of Indigenous children was found. Photo: Mert Alper Dervis/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

An Indigenous Canadian group announced plans Saturday to identify the remains of 215 children, some as young as three, found buried at the site of a former residential school, per CBC News.

The big picture: The discovery of the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation children's remains has renewed calls for the Roman Catholic Church to apologize for its role in Canada's policy of the 19th and 20th centuries that saw Indigenous children removed from families to attend state-funded residential schools.

  • Many of the almost 150,000 children attending the schools from 1883 to 1996 to "assimilate" into white Canadian society encountered neglect and abuse, as their native languages and cultures were forbidden, the Washington Post reports.
  • Canada's government apologized in 2008, admitting that physical and sexual abuse in the schools was widespread.

Details: Tk'emlups te Secwépemc First Nation Chief Rosanne Casimir said in a statement announcing the discovery Thursday, "To our knowledge, these missing children are undocumented deaths."

  • She said in a later statement that more bodies could be uncovered as not all areas had been searched at the Kamloops Indian Residential School — which the Catholic Church ran from 1890 to 1969 before the Canadian government took over its administration until the school's closure in 1978.
  • Assembly of First Nations regional chief Terry Teegee told the CBC that forensic experts would join the BC Coroners Service and the Royal B.C. Museum for the identification.
  • Prime Minister Trudeau tweeted Friday that the discovery was "a painful reminder of that dark and shameful chapter of our country's history."

Of note: The Roman Catholic Church has declined to apologize for its role in what Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission found in 2015 to be cultural genocide, despite Trudeau writing to Pope Francis to ask for one.

  • The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has urged the pope to apologize, but First Nations Child and Family Caring Society executive director Cindy Blackstock noted Friday that the "Catholic Church has yet to do that, and to really accept full responsibility for reparations to families," per CTV News.
  • "So that's something that we need to look into the Catholic Church to be doing, to accept that" accountability, Blackstock said.

What they're saying: Archbishop of Vancouver J. Michael Miller said in a statement to CTV News,"[W]e pledge to do whatever we can to heal that suffering."

Between the lines: While it's not yet known how the children died, "accidents, fires and contagious illness at residential schools all contributed to a high death toll, which the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has estimated at more than 4,000 children," the Washington Post notes.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper

The health case for getting kids back to school in person

Expand chart
Reproduced from KFF; Chart: Axios Visuals

Parents are much more likely to report their kids are experiencing negative effects if they are going to school virtually during the pandemic than if they attend school in person.

Why it matters: The new findings from the KFF Vaccine Monitor underscore the importance of keeping kids in school in person, which means doing it safely with masking for younger children and school staff despite controversies over mask requirements.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Beto plans Texas comeback in governor's race

Former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke speaks during the Georgetown to Austin March for Democracy rally on July 31, 2021, in Austin, Texas. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke is preparing to run for governor of Texas in 2022, with an announcement expected later this year, Texas political operatives tell Axios.

Why it matters: O'Rourke's entry would give Democrats a high-profile candidate with a national fundraising network to challenge Republican Gov. Greg Abbott — and give O’Rourke, a former three-term congressman from El Paso and 2020 presidential candidate and voting rights activist, a path to a political comeback.

Texas doctor says he performed an abortion in violation of state law

Pro-choice protesters march down Congress Avenue and back to the Texas state capitol in Austin, Texas, in July 2021. Photo: Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

A Texas doctor disclosed in an op-ed in the Washington Post on Saturday that he has performed an abortion in violation of the state's restrictive new abortion law, which effectively bans the procedure after six weeks.

Why it matters: Alan Braid's op-ed is a direct disclosure that will very likely result in legal action, thereby setting it up as a potential test case for how the abortion ban will be litigated, notes the New York Times.