Aboriginal children at residential schools often buried in unmarked graves, report reveals

Aboriginal children attending residential schools died at a higher rate than school-aged children in the general population, and were often buried in unmarked graves, according to the final report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

See Full Article

The commission released its final report Tuesday afternoon, marking the culmination of six years of research and interviews with more than 6,000 residential school survivors and their families.

It is estimated that more than 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Metis children were separated from their families and forced into residential schools over much of the last century.

The final report contains an entire volume dedicated to the children who died or went missing while attending residential schools. It also sheds light on the poor practices used at the schools to record the deaths, bury the dead, and inform the students' families.

It found that the government never established health and safety standards at its residential schools, and failed to enforce what minimal standards it had in place.

This failure was due to the government's "determination" to keep residential school costs low, the report said. It also resulted in "unnecessarily high death rates" at residential schools.

The commission found the following:

  • 3,200 students died while attending residential schools from 1867 to 2000.
  • For 32 per cent of these deaths, the government and the schools did not record the name of the students who died.
  • For 49 per cent of these deaths, the government and the residential schools did not record the cause of death.
  • For 23 per cent of these deaths, the gender of the student was not recorded.
  • The majority of deaths took place before 1940. Prior to 1940, there were 1,150 deaths for which no name was provided. After 1940, there are 44 death reports that do not provide the student's name.
  • Many residential schools did not send the students’ bodies back to their home communities after they died. Instead, many were buried in cemeteries that have since been abandoned and are "vulnerable to accidental disturbance."

The report noted that many aboriginal families have "unanswered questions" about what happened to their children or relatives who were forced to attend residential schools.

"The tragedy of the loss of children was compounded by the fact that burial places were distant or even unknown," the report said.

Conditions at schools

The report also contained descriptions from survivors of the living conditions at the residential schools.

According to survivors' accounts, diseases such as tuberculosis rampaged student populations, and poor medical care was provided.

Accidental deaths were common, and the report includes accounts of children dying in boating and plane accidents.

The report also noted that the poorly maintained school buildings often became fire traps. According to the report, 19 boys died in a single fire in Beauval, Sask., in 1927.

"The high death toll was partially attributable to inadequate fire escapes," the report said.

Many students also died or disappeared after attempting to run away from the residential schools, the report said.

In one account, four boys ran away from a school in Fort Albany, Ont. in 1941. The boys were presumed drowned and their bodies were never recovered, the report said.

Abandoned cemeteries

Many of the cemeteries where the students were buried have since been abandoned, the report said.

In one case, a school cemetery in Battleford, Sask., became neglected after the school closed in 1914. At the time, the school's principal warned the government that 70 to 80 individuals were buried at the cemetery, most of them students.

"He worried that unless the government took steps to care for the cemetery, it would be overrun by stray cattle," the report said.

The report highlighted a case in 2001, when water erosion of the banks of Alberta's Bow Highwood River exposed the remains of at least 34 bodies of former residential school students. The bodies were eventually exhumed and reburied in aboriginal and Christian ceremonies, the report said.

These tragic examples point to the fact that many students who went to residential schools never returned to their homes, the report said.

"Their parents were often uninformed of their sickness and death. They were buried away from their families in long-neglected graves," the report said. "No one took care to count how many died or to record where they were buried."

The report said many basic questions about missing residential school students have never been addressed by the Canadian government.

Earlier this year, Justice Murray Sinclair, who headed the commission, said that the number of students who died is likely higher; estimating that up to 6,000 children may have died while under the care of residential schools.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • DC sues Mark Zuckerberg over Cambridge Analytica privacy breach

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON - The District of Columbia on Monday sued Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg, seeking to hold him personally liable for the Cambridge Analytica scandal, a privacy breach of millions of Facebook users' personal data that became a major corporate and political scandal. Source
  • Canadian military members told Habitat for Humanity is an option amid housing crunch

    Canada News CBC News
    An email encouraging members of the Canadian Armed Forces to consider contacting Habitat for Humanity if they can't find affordable housing is casting a spotlight on a growing challenge facing military personnel and their families. The email was sent by a senior officer at 19 Wing Comox to other members at the Royal Canadian Air Force base on northern Vancouver Island, which is home to the military's search-and-rescue school as well as several squadrons of aircraft. Source
  • Fred Sasakamoose hockey tournament in Saskatoon features women's division for 1st time

    Canada News CBC News
    A tournament that highlights the Indigenous talent playing hockey welcomed a women's division for the the first time in the competition's history. Ten hockey teams competed in the women's division while 40 teams competed in the men's division of this year's Fred Sasakamoose "Chief Thunderstick" National Hockey Championship in Saskatoon over the weekend. Source
  • Health officials continue to monitor monkeypox cases in Europe and North America

    World News CBC News
    The World Health Organization (WHO) does not have evidence that the monkeypox virus has mutated, a senior executive at the UN agency said in a briefing on Monday morning, noting the infectious disease that has been endemic in West and Central Africa has tended not to change. Source
  • Ethics panel opens investigation into GOP's Madison Cawthorn

    World News CTV News
    The U.S. House Ethics Committee is investigating allegations that Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn had a conflict of interest in a cryptocurrency he promoted and engaged in an improper relationship with a member of his staff, the panel said Monday. Source
  • Deadly heat wave in India and Pakistan a 'sign of things to come,' scientists say

    World News CBC News
    The devastating heat wave that has baked India and Pakistan in recent months was made more likely due to climate change, according to a study by an international group of scientists released on Monday. This, they say, is a glimpse of what the future holds for the region. Source
  • Californians could see mandatory water cuts amid drought

    World News CTV News
    SACRAMENTO, Calif. - California Gov. Gavin Newsom threatened Monday to impose mandatory water restrictions if residents don't use less on their own as a drought drags on and the hotter summer months approach. Newsom raised that possibility in a meeting with representatives from major water agencies, including those that supply Los Angeles, San Diego and the San Francisco Bay Area, his office said in a press release. Source
  • Is my home or car covered from storm damage? In most cases yes, insurance bureau says

    Canada News CTV News
    The damage across southern Ontario and Quebec remains extensive after a severe storm swept through the provinces over the weekend, leaving hundreds of thousands without power and killing at least 10 people as of Monday afternoon. Source
  • Safety consultant in U.K. quits Shell for 'double talk' on climate

    World News CBC News
    A longtime contractor for British multinational Shell has publicly called out the oil and gas company's climate plans, accusing it of "double talk" by saying it wants to cut greenhouse gas emissions while working on tapping new fossil fuel sources. Source
  • Abu Dhabi says 2 killed, 120 injured in gas cylinder blast

    World News CTV News
    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - A gas cylinder explosion in the capital of the United Arab Emirates killed two people and injured 120 others Monday, police said, hours after authorities downplayed the incident and warned the public not to share images of the aftermath. Source