Editor’s note: This article contains some disturbing details about experiences at residential schools in Canada and may be upsetting to some readers. For those in need of emotional support, the 24-hour Residential Schools Crisis Line is available at 1-866-925-4419.
VANCOUVER – The Catholic religious community that operated residential schools in Saskatchewan and British Columbia where hundreds of unmarked graves have been found says it will disclose all historical documents it has.
The Missionary of Oblates of Mary Immaculate says it has worked to make historical documents available through universities, archives, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The Oblates say the work is not complete because of complications with provincial and national privacy laws. Their statement asks for guidance from organizations on how to navigate those laws.
This comes after remains of Indigenous people were found in unmarked graves in B.C. and Saskatchewan. In May, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc announced that the remains of 215 children, some believed to be as young as three years old, were discovered at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. On June 23, the Cowessess First Nation announced 751 hits were discovered in the search for remains at the former Merieval Indian Residential School, east of Regina.
Including those two, the Oblates operated 48 residential schools.
Indigenous leaders and others have been calling for the release of all documents related to residential schools.
The treatment of Indigenous peoples in Canada has been called a cultural genocide. Over decades, about 150,000 Indigenous children were separated from their homes and taken to residential schools.
Most residential schools were run by Catholic churches on behalf of the federal government.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued its final report on residential schools more than five years ago. The nearly 4,000-page account details the harsh mistreatment inflicted on Indigenous children at the institutions, where at least 3,200 children died amid abuse and neglect.
Communities across the country are searching other residential school sites for possible remains.