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Unmarked graves discovered near another Canadian residential school

The residential schools were known for overcrowding, poor sanitation, unhealthy food, and menial labour.

SNS | Ottawa |

The remains of 182 people have been found in unmarked graves around another former indigenous residential school in Canada’s British Columbia province, it was announced.

The Aq’am community, a member of the Ktunaxa Nation located near the city of Cranbrook, used ground-penetrating radar to find the remains close to the former St. Eugene’s Mission School, the Lower Kootenay Band said in a statement on Wednesday.

The indigenous school was operated by the Catholic Church from 1912 until the early 1970s, reports Xinhua news agency.

The building has since been converted into a resort and casino, with an adjacent golf course.

“It is believed that the remains of these 182 souls are from the member Bands of the Ktunaxa Nation, neighboring First Nations communities, and the community of Aq’am,” the band said in the statement.

The band said up to 100 of its members were forced to attend the school.

The finding followed the discovery of the estimated remains of 215 people at the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia and an estimated 751 unmarked graves near a site of the Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan.

Some remains were found in shallow graves, only 3-4ft deep, the Lower Kootenay Band said in a statement.

St Eugene’s was operated by the Catholic Church from 1912 until the early 1970s. It was one of more than 130 compulsory boarding schools funded by the Canadian government and run by religious authorities during the 19th and 20th Centuries with the aim of forcibly assimilating indigenous youth.

Up to 100 of the Lower Kootenay Band were forced to attend, the group said.

But the remains were found on the grounds of the ʔaq̓am cemetery, which dates back to 1865. Burial plots used to be marked with wooden crosses that crumbled over the years.

“These factors, among others, make it extremely difficult to establish whether or not these unmarked graves contain the remains of children who attended the St Eugene Residential School,” the community’s statement said.

The community’s leadership met with residential school survivors in the community before announcing the discovery and referred them to support.

The band said it is in the early stages of learning about the report’s findings and will provide more updates.

About 150,000 indigenous children attended residential schools.

The schools were known for overcrowding, poor sanitation, unhealthy food and menial labour.

Harsh punishment was given to students who spoke their native language or took part in traditional ceremonies.

The grim finds have prompted national outrage and fuelled calls by some to cancel the 1 July Canada Day holiday.

Indigenous leaders have said they expect more graves will be found as investigations continue. “You can never fully prepare for something like this,” said Chief Jason Louie of the Lower Kootenay Band, which is a member of the Ktunaxa Nation.

The news comes amid a national soul-searching over Canada’s legacy of residential schools.

In May, the remains of 215 Indigenous children were found in unmarked graves in Kamloops, British Columbia. Then last week, leaders for the Cowessess First Nation said the remains of 751 bodies, most of them children, were discovered at the former site of another school in Saskatchewan.