Aboriginal groups in Canada announced a “horrible and shocking discovery” of hundreds of unmarked tombs on the grounds of a former residential school just weeks after a similar discovery struck the country.
The number of newly discovered unmarked tombs is “the most important number ever in Canada,” the Sovereign Indigenous Peoples Federation said in a statement Wednesday. The statement did not specify a number.
The group said at a press conference Thursday morning that it would announce “a horrifying and shocking discovery of hundreds of unmarked tombs on the grounds of the former Maribal Indian Residential School” in Saskatchewan.
After the bodies of 215 indigenous children were found on the grounds of another former Catholic residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canadians forced the children away from their families in an abuse system. I had to confront the heritage.
The latest findings are “absolutely tragic, but not surprising,” the president of Canada’s indigenous peoples’ advocacy group, Perry Bellegarde, said on Wednesday.
“I urge all Canadians to stand with the indigenous people during this very difficult and emotional time,” he said on Twitter.
Saskatchewan’s Prime Minister Scott Moe said it was “painful” to think that many of the people found in Marieval’s unbranded tombs were children and died away from their families.
Between 1831 and 1996, approximately 150,000 indigenous children were sent to Canadian housing schools run by government and church groups.
What the National Truth Commission called the “cultural genocide” in 2015 caused malnutrition and physical and sexual abuse of children.
Survivors who spoke to Reuters remembered constant hunger and unforgettable loneliness, and the school operates under threat and frequent use of force.
“The violence there was a paramilitary organization, and it was very tightly controlled,” said Kamloops survivor Sir Heil Sat, 72, earlier this month.
“Punishment was the way they remained silent and orderly.”
In 2008, the Government of Canada formally apologized for this system. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently said that the Catholic Church must be responsible for its role in the operation of many schools and provide records to help identify the bodies.
Earlier this month, Pope Francis said in a statement dismissed by the survivors that he was suffering but did not apologize.
“We are all suffering and sad. Who isn’t? This is a global tragedy,” said Bobby Cameron, Prime Minister of the Saskatchewan Indigenous Peoples’ Federation.
“How difficult is the Pope to say?’I’m very sorry about how our organization treated First Nations people, First Nations students at the time. I’m sorry. I pray.'”