Toronto, Canada, Jun 30 (EFE).- At least 182 unmarked graves have been found on the grounds of another former residential school in western Canada, a First Nations group announced Wednesday.
The discovery brings the total to more than 1,100 graves found in former school residences for indigenous children in recent weeks in the country.
The graves were located with ground-penetrating radar at the former St Eugene’s Mission residential school in the western province of British Columbia, the Lower Kootenay Band said.
“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,” it said in a statement.
This discovery comes after that of late May when the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in British Columbia said it had found the remains of at least 215 indigenous children in the former school residence in Kamloops.
Last week, the Cowessess First Nation from western Saskatchewan province announced that they had found 751 unmarked graves at the former Marieval Residential School.
Meanwhile, Canadian Police reported Wednesday “suspicious” fires in two Catholic churches in the country, bringing the total to six since the discoveries of human remains in former school residences, which were managed by religious orders.
St. Jean Baptiste Parish, built 114 years ago in the town of Morinville, about 3,400 kilometers northwest of Toronto, was devastated by a “suspicious” fire that started in the early morning, while St. Kateri Tekakwitha Church, northeast of Halifax in Nova Scotia, was also destroyed by fire in the early morning.
Also Wednesday, one of the main indigenous collectives in Canada asked the Catholic Church to pay the CA$25 million ($20.2 million) in compensation that it agreed to in 2006 to the survivors of the country’s school residences and that it has not yet paid in full.
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), which represents the 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan, denounced that so far the Catholic Church has only offered a fraction of the initial figure, the equivalent of CA$0.30 per survivor.
“Thousands of First Nations children were victims of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse at these church-run residential schools. They were starved, shamed and beaten for speaking their languages and stripped of their culture, traditions, and identity,” FSIN chief Bobby Cameron said in a statement.
“For Catholics to raise millions to build multiple multi-million-dollar cathedrals and raise only $34,650 or $0.30 per survivor is shameful,” added Cameron.
From the 19th century, indigenous children were forcibly removed from their communities and sent to these boarding schools, in some cases located hundreds of kilometers from their families.
With this system, Canada sought to assimilate the country’s indigenous population into society. They were forced to convert to Christianity and were not allowed to speak their languages nor practice their culture.
Up to 30 percent – around 150,000 – of the indigenous child population was placed into these institutions, where many were subjected to physical, psychological and sexual abuse. In some cases, federal scientists even conducted experiments on the minors.
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada concluded that one in 50 children sent to school residences, around 3,200 children died in institutions, although this figure is considered conservative by indigenous leaders. EFE