United Nations human rights experts called on Canadian authorities and the Catholic church on Friday to investigate the mass grave of over 200 children Indigenous children at a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia.
Earlier this week, Marta Hurtado, spokesperson of the UN Human Rights Office, called the discovery of the mass grave in British Columbia “shocking” and one which “re-opens painful wounds” in an emailed statement to JURIST. Furthermore, to meet the cornerstones of reconciliation, she urged:
The Canadian authorities, at all levels, should ensure prompt and exhaustive investigations as to the deaths of indigenous children and redouble efforts to find the whereabouts of missing children, including by searching unmarked graves. Families and indigenous communities need to be able to access records relating to their missing or deceased family members.
The UN experts added to the statement, stating: “Large scale human rights violations have been committed against children belonging to indigenous communities, it is inconceivable that Canada and the Holy See would leave such heinous crimes unaccounted for and without full redress.” While being in contact with Canada and the Holy See, the experts also called on the Canadian government to fully implement the 2015 Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) recommendations.
Upon the announced discovery concerning Kamloops Indian Residential School on May 27, the Ministers of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Indigenous Services stated:
Yesterday’s news of the discovery of 215 bodies found in the area around the Kamloops Indian Residential School is once again a reminder of the harms families and Survivors have suffered and continue to suffer. We are profoundly saddened by this discovery and our thoughts are with Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, as well as with all Indigenous communities across Canada.
An additional statement by the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations reiterated Canada’s commitment to the work of the TRC and implementing its Calls to Action with $27 million allocated in funding, some of which will be used to establish the registries for deaths, burials and cemeteries.
The Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced this discovery by using the ground-penetrating radar, with a more thorough report on the findings being expected later this month. An estimated 4,100 students have died in residential schools around the country, and thus, more unmarked graves are expected to be located in the future.