The remains of 215 children were found buried at a former residential school for indigenous children in Kamloops, British Columbia, the Toronto Star reported.
The remains were found near the Kamloops Indian Residential School, which opened in 1890, through the use of ground-penetrating radar. The school was operated by the Catholic Church before the state took over its operations before it was closed.
Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation said following the grisly discovery: “Given the size of the school, with up to 500 students registered and attending at any one time, we understand that this confirmed loss affects First Nations communities across British Columbia and beyond.”
Casimir further stated that it was believed the children's deaths were undocumented. Some of the children are believed to be as young as three.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in response to the discovery: “The news that remains were found at the former Kamloops residential school breaks my heart – it is a painful reminder of that dark and shameful chapter of our country’s history. I am thinking about everyone affected by this distressing news. We are here for you.”
Approximately 150,000 indigenous children for forced to attend similar residential schools by the Canadian government in the late 1800s and throughout much of the 1900s. As many as 6,000 of these children are believed to have died due to neglect and overwork.
In 2015, the Canadian government released a Truth and Reconciliation report which found that "child neglect was institutionalized" at these schools, which were “an education system in name only,” and constituted "cultural genocide."
The Kamloops Indian Residential School remained open until 1978. The last Canadian residential schools for indigenous children closed in 1996.