40 unmarked children’s graves found at former residential school in Sechelt, B.C.

Click to play video: 'B.C. First Nation’s next steps after unmarked graves found near former residential school'
B.C. First Nation’s next steps after unmarked graves found near former residential school
WATCH: The shíshálh Nation says ground-penetrating radar searches have found 40 unmarked graves of children near the site of the former St. Augustine's Residential School in Sechelt. Catherine Urquhart reports. – Apr 20, 2023

Warning: This story deals with disturbing subject matter that may upset and trigger some readers. Discretion is advised.

Researchers have identified 40 unmarked children’s graves at the former site of the St. Augustine’s Residential School in Sechelt.

In a news release Thursday, the shíshálh Nation said they listened to stories from elders and survivors of the school who told them of missing children.

The graves were found on and near the grounds of the former school, the nation confirmed, under the guidance and direction of survivors.

Those graves were then identified using ground penetrating radar, which has also been used at other sites of former residential schools.

“We have always known the truth, our Elders have told us and we always believed them. We want to show the little ones to know we haven’t forgotten them, we love them, and they are important,” said Chief Lenora Joe of shíshálh Nation. “The children have spoken, and we are listening. We have heard their voices.”

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“We know there are more lost children, the researchers are telling us there are more. This is heartbreaking,” Joe added. “The institution was in the heart of town, the ground has been disturbed many times, some of the children may never be found; we will keep looking.”

Click to play video: 'Potential unmarked graves discovered at former Vancouver Island residential school'
Potential unmarked graves discovered at former Vancouver Island residential school

The first residential school institution in Sechelt opened on June 28, 1904. The school burned down on May 25, 1917.

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The second school in Sechelt opened on June 15, 1922. The school closed on June 22, 1975, and was burned down on Oct. 9, 1975.

Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Murray Rankin, said Thursday that this is a part of our history and everyone has an obligation to learn this history.

“My reaction is the reaction of every British Columbian,” he said. “Profound sadness.”

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Rankin said this information has been known by survivors of residential schools for many years, that children died and were buried on the site of the institutions.

The probe into the possibility of finding human remains began after ground-penetrating radar located what are believed to be more than 200 graves at the former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., prompting similar searches at former schools in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation lists 4,130 names on its memorial register of children who never returned home from forced attendance at residential schools across Canada.

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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