Toronto, Canada, May 31 (EFE).- Canadian indigenous organizations and political parties demanded Monday the government search former state boarding schools for the remains of indigenous children who disappeared in those institutions, after the discovery of 215 young bodies in a mass grave in a residential school in the west of the country.
Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, which represents Canada’s indigenous groups, urged that each of the dozens of residential schools established by the Canadian government from 1870 to 1996 be searched to locate remains of children held in them.
The New Democratic Party requested an emergency debate in the House of Commons to address the discovery of the remains of 215 indigenous children in the town of Kamloops, British Columbia, a request that was seconded by the main opposition Conservative Party.
“It is not good enough for the federal Liberal government to just make symbolic gestures to commemorate this horrible loss,” said NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, who had to stop his press conference at times, visibly upset.
“This isn’t the last site; there are many others to be found. Indigenous communities deserve to have the justice that every site like this is uncovered.”
But for now, it seems that the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is only willing to offer words of sympathy and vague measures as public tributes to the victims of Kamloops take place across the country.
Despite being asked numerous times Monday by the media about concrete measures, Trudeau was unable to offer a single detail of what the government will do.
“Sadly, this is not an exception or an isolated incident. We’re not going to hide from that. We have to acknowledge the truth. Residential schools were a reality — a tragedy that existed here, in our country, and we have to own up to it,” Trudeau said.
“We promised concrete action, and that’s how we’ll support survivors, families, and Indigenous peoples.”
Last Friday, Rosanne Casimir, chief of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, revealed at a press conference that with the use of ground penetrating radar the remains of 215 children had been located in the former school residence in Kamloops.
The boarding school, a complex that was once the largest of the Canadian residential school system of assimilation imposed on the indigenous population, began operating in 1890 and closed its doors in 1969. Like many other boarding schools, Kamloops was run by a religious organization, in this case the Catholic Church.
With the system run between the 19th century and the 1970s, 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.
In the boarding schools, through which up to 30 percent of the indigenous child population passed – around 150,000 – the children were subjected to physical, psychological and sexual abuse. In some cases, federal scientists even conducted experiments on the minors. EFE