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Kamloops chief says report on residential school remains discovery due at end of June


KAMLOOPS, B.C. — A report that details the discovery of what are believed to be the remains of 215 children at the former Kamloops residential school has been delayed slightly but is expected to be complete by the end of June, says Chief Rosanne Casimir.

The Tk'emlups te Secwepemc Nation chief said Wednesday original projections had the report being released by mid-June but it will now take a few days longer.

"Given its significance, you can understand that there are a number of steps and due diligence that are needed," Casimir said during a virtual news conference.

The nation announced last month it had used ground-penetrating radar to find what are believed to be the remains of 215 children at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. 

Casimir said the Kamloops reserve has been a whirlwind of activity since the announcement of the discovery, which generated international headlines.

Thousands of people have visited a memorial to residential school survivors at the former school site to pay their respects, she said. 

"There's a lot of shared hurts and traumas and triggers that have been opened and that is something that I didn't anticipate, but I know it's something we all have to face," she said.

Casimir said the nation gathered last week for a much-needed traditional ceremony to help many people make peace with their role as caretakers of the missing children and provide strength for the start of a difficult search for the truth about residential schools.

"It has been frankly overwhelming," she said. "That said, on behalf of Tk'emlups te Secwepemc, I want to express my deepest gratitude for the outpouring of support."

Casimir said she expects more unmarked grave sites to be discovered across the country.

She said she grieves for the Indigenous communities that are about to embark on searches for missing children.

"More missing children and unmarked graves will be confirmed," Casimir said. "This was a knowing that survivors brought to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the commissioners did their utmost to bring this to light as part of their work."

The Kamloops residential school operated between 1890 and 1969, when the federal government took over operations from the Catholic Church and operated it as a day school until it closed in 1978.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 4,000-page report details mistreatment at Canada's residential schools, including the emotional, physical and sexual abuse of children, and at least 4,100 deaths at the institutions.

The governments of Alberta and Ontario recently announced funding programs to investigate undocumented deaths and look for burial sites near former residential school sites.

The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program has a hotline to help residential school survivors and their relatives suffering with trauma invoked by the recall of past abuse. The number is 1-866-925-4419.

— By Dirk Meissner in Victoria. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 16, 2021.

The Canadian Press