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Ground search at former Mohawk Institute in Brantford, Ont. set to begin

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WATCH ABOVE: Mixed emotions – that’s the feeling in Brantford, Ont., where the search for unmarked graves at the former Mohawk Institute residential school got underway Tuesday morning. Melanie Zettler was there to speak with survivors and community members on day one of the search – Nov 9, 2021

WARNING: Details in this story may be disturbing to some readers. Discretion is advised.

A joint task force investigating criminal activities that may have happened at one of Canada’s longest-running residential schools will begin the first phase of its search of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School on Tuesday.

The Survivors’ Secretariat, looking into the deaths of children who died while attending the Brantford, Ont., facility, said in a release Monday they plan to cover an estimated 500 acres of the lands associated with the former church-run, government-funded school.

“With the leadership of the Survivors, we have conducted a mapping exercise, reviewed archival records and are ready to commence phase one of the ground search,” the Secretariat and Six Nations of The Grand River said in the statement.

Read more: Survivors, leaders critical of Ontario residential school burial search fund rollout

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Two ground penetrating radar (GPR) machines will lead the initial stage of the probe via grids provided through the search master from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP).

A 200 hectare area in between the current Woodland Cultural Centre and former institute building is where the first of many grid searches will start.

The Secretariat was formed in late July and is a survivor-led initiative reaching out to the community around the Mohawk Institute to determine protocols and processes employed during the schools’ 139 years of operation.

The Brantford school, opened in 1828, became a part of the cross-Canada residential school network of boarding facilities for Indigenous Peoples.

In mid-October, the task force said it was checking out its first case after remains of what may have been a 14-year-old child were discovered in a wooded area near Glenwood Drive, according to Indigenous Human Rights Monitor Dr. Beverly Jacobs.

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Remains of 215 children found on the grounds of a residential school in Kamloops, B.C. has been the catalyst for a number of recent searches across Canada.

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government on Thursday announced a $10 million top-up to an initial $10 million it pledged in June for investigations into unmarked graves.

Read more: Task force investigating residential school in Brantford, Ont. reveal first case

So far, 12 unmarked burials in Ontario have been identified by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which documented abuse suffered by Indigenous children at residential schools and the deaths of more than 4,000 children.

Ontario is set to transfer death records of 1,800 school-aged Indigenous children to the commission.

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.

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