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Scores of unmarked graves discovered near residential school in Canada

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This photo taken on June 8, 2022 shows where unmarked graves have been found in Saddle Lake Cemetery in Saddle Lake Cree Nation in Alberta. — AFP
This photo taken on June 8, 2022 shows where unmarked graves have been found in Saddle Lake Cemetery in Saddle Lake Cree Nation in Alberta. — AFP

Officials in Canada were informed about nearly 100 unmarked graves in the western part of the country discovered by an indigenous community, marking it the latest Tuesday as more than 1,300 sites were discovered near religious educational institutes since 2021.  

The latest discovered unmarked graves have been found near the location of a former residential school. 

Jenny Wolverine, chief of the English River First Nation Indigenous group, told a news conference: “What we found was heartbreaking and devastating. To date, there are 93 potential unmarked graves, 79 children and 14 infants.”

“Let me be clear… this is not a final number,” she added, voicing fears that the number could jump further.

The discoveries, near the site of what was the Beauval Indian residential school in the province of Saskatchewan, were made using ground-penetrating radar.

According to the University of Regina, the residential school was demolished by former students after its closure in 1995.

Between the late 19th century and the mid-1990s, some 150,000 Indigenous children were forced into 139 residential schools across Canada, where they were cut off from their family, language and culture.

This dark page in Canadian history was recently thrust back into the spotlight after the discovery in the spring of 2021 of the first child graves associated with a school, sparking a reckoning over the country’s colonial history.

Managed by the Catholic Church and the Canadian government, the schools had an explicit objective to “kill the Indian” in the heart of the child.

In April 2022, Pope Francis presented his apologies to a delegation of Indigenous Canadians at the Vatican, ahead of an official papal visit to the country.

Ottawa, for its part, presented an official apology to its Indigenous peoples for the first time in 2008.

“We… ask Canada and Saskatchewan to accept the wrong” and “reflect in their approaches with Indigenous governments,” Wolverine said, to ensure “history never repeats itself.”

“We have heard ´I am sorry,´” Wolverine said, asking instead for words to be put into action.

In 2015, a National Truth and Reconciliation Commission declared that the forced enrollment of Indigenous children in the residential school system qualified as “cultural genocide.”

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