Manitoba RCMP acknowledged Tuesday they’ve been investigating allegations of sexual abuse at the former Fort Alexander Residential School on Sagkeeng First Nation for the past decade.
Information-gathering about historical allegations began in February 2010, police said, and involved investigators reviewing archival records both in Manitoba and Ottawa.
After going through thousands of documents, the RCMP said its investigators began canvassing the more than 700 people across North America mentioned in their research, followed by launching a criminal investigation in 2011 and taking 75 formal witness and victim statements.
The investigation has involved more than 80 RCMP staff, as well as engagement with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the Southern Chiefs Organization, and the chief and council of Sagkeeng First Nation.
The complex investigation, police said, resulted in a package sent to prosecution services for review and advice regarding potential charges.
Manitoba RCMP said this is their only current investigation into residential schools in the province, and due to the fact that charges have yet to be laid, they won’t be providing any further details, despite the public interest in residential school abuses.
The Fort Alexander Residential School operated from 1905 to 1970, and children from 21 communities were sent there.
Last week, Sagkeeng chief Derrick Henderson said his community had begun searching the site with the use of ground-penetrating radar technology, in light of recent discoveries of unmarked graves at similar residential schools across Canada.
The First Nation has not yet released the results of that search publicly.
Henderson said Tuesday it has been a difficult two days, and the past week has taken a toll on members of the community. He’s asking for privacy in hopes of minimizing further trauma.
“Violation of the privacy rights of those involved in this investigation will not only cause further trauma to everyone involved, but also potentially compromise this highly sensitive investigation,” he said in a statement.
“We ask that the trauma our community has experienced and continues to live every day is respected, and that those affected are afforded their privacy at this time.”
Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs Organization said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that his organization is fully supporting the RCMP’s investigation.
“We expect it to be a thorough investigation, and at the end, for those guilty of horrendous crimes against children to be brought to justice using the full extent of the law,” said Daniels.
“We’ve waited more than long enough for the criminals to be held fully accountable.”
The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419) is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience.