The gruesome discovery of the remains of 215 children, at one of Canada’s largest residential schools in Kamloops, BC has had a tremendous impact on people across the country. The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation found the remains of 215 children in unmarked graves at the site of the former residential school that operated from 1890 to 1969, mostly under a Catholic order called the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
The First Nation community secured a grant from the provincial government of BC to purchase the sonar equipment used to do the search for the remains.
Throughout the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), testimonies, by residential school survivors, indicated that there were children who died at the schools and their deaths were undocumented, and their graves unmarked.
Many families reported that their children never returned from the schools, and based on family and student testimonies, the Tk’emlups community long suspected that more children were buried on the grounds and tried for about 20 years to find them.
Between 1870 and 1990, approximately 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families and sent to various residential schools across the country. The exact number of children who died at school may never be known.
Sometimes parents never found out what happened to their children. The students who did not return have come to be known as the Missing Children. Working with Survivors and Aboriginal organizations, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has launched the Missing Children Project to document the deaths and the burial places of children who died while attending the schools. To date the TRC has identified the names of, or information about, more than 4,100 children who died while attending a residential school. This information will be compiled into a national register that will hold all of the information known about these children. The TRC’s Missing Children Project stated that there may be as many as 6,000 bodies to uncover. The search continues.