Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Attendees perform a round dance during a press conference and prayer vigil at the former Muscowequan Indian Residential School, one of the last residential schools to close its doors in Canada in 1997, and the last fully intact residential school still standing in Saskatchewan at Muskowekwan First Nation, on June 1, 2021.

Kayle Neis/The Canadian Press

The former chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into Canada’s residential schools says the country is beginning to see evidence of how many children died at the institutions and that more sites will likely come to light.

Murray Sinclair released a video message on Tuesday evening, his first public remarks since the remains of children were discovered at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School last week. He said survivors of the schools need to understand that it is important to make this evidence public so Canadians can see the magnitude of what happened and the extent of responsibility. This includes what he described as the need to force churches that have documents related to residential schools to disclose them.

Mr. Sinclair said his commission heard from survivors who talked about children being “buried in large numbers into mass burial sites.” He also shared that the commissioners were told infants born to young girls at residential schools fathered by priests were taken away and “deliberately killed, sometimes by being thrown into furnaces.”

Story continues below advertisement

“It’s unfathomable:” Canada’s lost residential school children

It’s time to bring our children home from the residential schools

The Kamloops residential school’s unmarked graves: What we know about the 215 children’s remains, and Canada’s reaction so far

Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir said last week that preliminary findings of a search with ground-penetrating radar discovered the remains of 215 children at the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. The announcement prompted calls for provincial governments and Ottawa to take action, and has led to commemorations across the country that use the shoes of young children to symbolize those who never came home. A final report on the work at the site is due in June.

Mr. Sinclair, who retired from the Senate earlier this year, said on Tuesday that the TRC had asked the previous Conservative government to allow the commission to conduct a more fulsome inquiry to explore this issue on behalf of survivors and the Canadian public. He said that request was denied.

“We did what we could, but it was not anywhere near what we needed to accomplish and needed to investigate,” he said. “Now, we are beginning to see evidence of the numbers of children who died. We know that there were probably lots of sites similar to Kamloops that are going to come to light in the future. And we need to begin to prepare ourselves for that.”

He also said he has been inundated with phone calls from survivors since the Kamloops discovery.

During a debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the victims of the residential schools would have been grandparents, great-grandparents, elders, knowledge keepers and community leaders.

“They are not,” he said. “That is the fault of Canada.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr. Trudeau said he met on Monday with his cabinet to discuss next steps to support survivors, families and Indigenous peoples. He also said that repairing the “terrible wrongs” of residential schools can occur only if every order of government takes action.

Story continues below advertisement

The Prime Minister also spoke on Tuesday with Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde. In a summary of the call, Chief Bellegarde said he urged the Prime Minister to work with First Nations to find all unmarked graves “of our stolen children” and to accelerate progress in response to the TRC’s calls to action.

B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec and Ontario committed this week to helping support First Nations groups wanting to conduct similar searches of the former residential school sites that dot these provinces.

Manitoba’s Ministry of Indigenous and Northern Relations did not explicitly commit to funding such work, but said it is partnering with First Nations leaders, residential school survivors and Ottawa on other measures related to the calls to action on these unmarked graves made by Mr. Sinclair’s Commission.

Murray Rankin, B.C.’s Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, echoed Mr. Sinclair’s call for the Catholic church to co-operate in identifying remains.

The TRC produced a conservative estimate that 4,100 of the roughly 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children forced into these schools died of disease or accidents while there. Mr. Sinclair previously said that as many as 6,000 children could have died.

In Question Period at Queen’s Park on Tuesday, Ontario NDP MPP Sol Mamakwa, who is his party’s critic for Indigenous and treaty relations, asked the provincial government to provide timelines and a funding commitment for a pledge made this week to help find other unmarked graves.

Story continues below advertisement

Government House Leader Paul Calandra said the province is committed to funding the effort, which should be led by First Nations. He did not outline a specific schedule or an amount, but said Minister of Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford and Premier Doug Ford support working with First Nations on the issue.

Mr. Mamakwa said searches must be Indigenous-led because communities need to trust the process, and the governments need to provide the resources to make it happen. He said it is crucial that governments move beyond sending condolences, thoughts and prayers and putting flags at half-mast.

“If you’re a Canadian, if you’re an Ontarian, they deserve to know what’s happened; the real history of Canada,” he said.

Mr. Mamakwa said there is no guide on how to do the work.

“I think every community, every nation, survivors need to have a say on what that process is,” he said.

Mr. Trudeau is also facing calls from community leaders to fund forensic searches of the grounds of former residential schools.

Story continues below advertisement

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the chief and executive council of Pimicikamak Okimawin in northern Manitoba said they are “certain that there are bodies to be found on the grounds of the residential school in our community.” They also said survivors have spoken about unimaginable abuse at the school and that children went missing from it. There must be truth for there to be reconciliation, they added.

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, the First Nations Summit and the B.C. Assembly of First Nations also asked Ottawa to work urgently with First Nations to create new measures and laws around these sites, including making it a crime to hide, damage, interfere with or destroy mass graves now or in the past. The group also wants the federal government, in concert with Indigenous partners, to immediately identify, seize and control all records of the Kamloops school to ensure they inform the investigation.

When asked whether the federal government will finance more searches, a spokesperson for Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said the government is engaging with survivors, families, Indigenous peoples and organizations to determine the best path forward and to ensure this work is focused on survivors and is culturally sensitive.

The number for the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is 1-866-925-4419. British Columbia has a First Nations and Indigenous Crisis Line offered through the KUU-US Crisis Line Society , toll-free at 1-800-588-8717.

With reports from Jeff Gray in Toronto and the Canadian Press

Know what is happening in the halls of power with the day’s top political headlines and commentary as selected by Globe editors (subscribers only). Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the authors of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies