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

  • Hurricane Michael victims ID'd as death toll rises, recovery effort drags on

    World News CBC News
    Officials say the death toll from Hurricane Michael now stands at 35, including 25 who died in Florida. On Friday, authorities confirmed that a body recovered Monday was that of Aggie Vicari, a missing 79-year-old Mexico Beach woman. Source
  • Russian woman charged in first 2018 U.S. election meddling case

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- The U.S. accused a Russian woman on Friday of helping oversee the finances of a sweeping, secretive effort to sway American public opinion through social media in the first federal case alleging foreign interference in the 2018 midterm elections. Source
  • Police say fatal shooting in Abbotsford, B.C., related to gang conflict

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER - Police say a man who was shot to death Thursday evening in Abbotsford, B.C., is linked to the ongoing gang conflict in the Lower Mainland and was targeted for murder. Cpl. Frank Jang of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team says the victim has been identified, but his name will not be released until further investigation is complete. Source
  • Support from above: How Canada is aiding peacekeeping efforts in war-torn Mali

    Canada News CTV News
    As a child growing up in Nova Scotia, Cpl. Nicole Reid didn’t have very many nice belongings. “The things I had, I had to fix with my father so they worked and when I didn’t understand, I taught myself how to do it,” she explained. Source
  • Toronto police raid and shut down five marijuana dispensaries, vow to close more

    Canada News CTV News
    Toronto police have shut down five pot shops in a co-ordinated raid Friday afternoon. Police spokesman Gary Long says the drug squad charged and released eight people under the new provincial cannabis legislation. It is only legal to buy marijuana in Ontario from the province's online website and police Chief Mark Saunders vowed to shut down illegal dispensaries after marijuana became legal on Wednesday. Source
  • Unburied fetuses, other bodies found in second funeral home

    World News CTV News
    DETROIT -- About 36 fetuses and infants have been removed from a Detroit funeral home, the second facility where remains have been improperly disposed. Detroit police raided Perry Funeral Home on Friday and found the remains. Source
  • 'I owe my life to this game': Jordin Tootoo retiring from NHL

    Canada News CBC News
    The first Inuk to play in the National Hockey League is retiring. Jordin Tootoo, 35, made the announcement Friday afternoon in Brandon, Man., where he began his hockey career playing for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League in 1999. Source
  • Swoop fails to get regulatory approval for U.S. flights, more than 20 trips cancelled

    Canada News CTV News
    Thousands of airline passengers have been left stranded after new Canadian low-cost carrier Swoop failed to get all the regulatory approvals needed for trips to the United States. The airline has been forced to cancel some of its flights last minute, with flights to the U.S. Source
  • Workers tied up in armed attack on legal Ontario pot grow-op

    Canada News CBC News
    Four workers were tied up and several items were taken in an armed attack on a legal marijuana grow-op near Beaverton, Ont., early Thursday morning, according to police. Durham Regional Police say that at approximately 6 a.m. Source
  • Ontario does brisk business with 100,000 pot orders in first 24 hours

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- The Ontario Cannabis Store says it has received about 100,000 online orders in the first 24 hours that marijuana was legal in Canada. The government-run OCS says 12,000 of those orders came within the first hour after legalization Wednesday morning. Source