An Indigenous community in western Canada has reportedly found 182 unmarked graves near a former boarding school for Indigenous children, the latest such discovery in recent weeks.
The latest discovery of graves near Cranbrook, British Columbia, follows reports of similar findings at two other Catholic-run schools, one of more than 600 unmarked graves and another of 215 bodies, Mail Online reported. The Catholic-run school in Canada houses children taken from their families.
The Lower Kootenay Band said in a news release on Wednesday that experts started using ground penetrating radar mapping last year to search the site close to the former St Eugene’s Mission School near Cranbrook, British Columbia.
The school, which Indigenous children were forced to attend in a state effort to assimilate them into Canadian society, was run by the Catholic Church and operated from 1890 until 1970, according to the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre.
Experts believe the remains found in unmarked graves were those of the Indigenous children between the ages of seven and 15.
The band said in a statement that the search began last year, and the children are believed to be members of bands of the Ktunaxa Nation, which includes the Lower Kootenay and other neighboring Indigenous communities.
“You can never fully prepare for something like this,” said Chief Jason Louie of the Lower Kootenay Band, as reported by CBC News.
Pope Francis has invited survivors of the residential schools to meet with him at the Vatican in December, according to reports.
After graves were found last month, Pope Francis expressed his pain and pressed religious and political authorities to shed light on ‘this sad affair.’ But he didn’t offer the apology sought by First Nations and the Canadian government, report said.
The native group which made the latest discovery, Lower Kootenay Band, said on Wednesday that the atrocity was akin to the Nazis systematic killing of Jews.
Chief Jason Louie of the Lower Kootenay Band called the discovery ‘deeply personal’ since he had relatives attend the school.
“Let’s call this for what it is,” Louie told CBC radio in an interview. “It’s a mass murder of Indigenous people.”
‘The Nazis were held accountable for their war crimes. I see no difference in locating the priests and nuns and the brothers who are responsible for this mass murder to be held accountable for their part in this attempt of genocide of an Indigenous people.’
Before the latest finding, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he has asked that the national flag on the Peace Tower remain at half-mast for Canada Day on Thursday to honor the Indigenous children who died in residential schools.
Louie said he wants more concrete action than apologies.
“I’m really done with the government and churches saying they are sorry,” he said. “Justice delayed is justice denied.”
On Wednesday, Alberta’s premier condemned what he called “arson attacks at Christian churches” after a historic parish was destroyed in a fire.
“Today in Morinville, l’eglise de Saint-Jean-Baptiste was destroyed in what appears to have been a criminal act of arson,” Kenney said in a statement.
According to Aljazeera, hundreds of unmarked graves have been uncovered in at least three other residential schools in Canada in recent weeks, plunging Indigenous communities that had known for decades about deaths at the institutions into a sense of renewed grief and anguish.
Late last month, 215 Indigenous children’s remains were found at Kamloops Indian Residential School in BC, while as many as 751 unmarked graves were discovered at Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan last week.
Canada’s residential school system operated from the late 1800s until the 1990s. It was part of a wider colonial project that aimed to take over Indigenous lands and forcibly assimilate First Nation, Metis and Inuit children. Various churches, including most notably the Roman Catholic Church, ran at least 139 residential schools across Canada, and thousands of Indigenous children are believed to have died while attending the institutions.