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Manitoba First Nations calling to search for unmarked grave sites at former residential schools

Last Updated Jun 4, 2021 at 7:51 pm PDT

A memorial grows at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School on May 28, 2021, after the discovery of the remains of 215 children buried there. (Martin MacMahon/NEWS 1130)

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available for anyone affected by residential schools. You can call 1-866-925-4419 24 hours a day to access emotional support and services.

WINNIPEG (CityNews) – More calls to action to search for grave sites on former residential schools have come from Manitoba First Nations.

They are pressing the need to expand the search and bring in independent organizations to assist in locating the missing children, while collecting forensic and potentially criminal evidence from the sites.

“We’ve heard many make it clear that these searches must happen,” said NDP MP Niki Ashton.

“A life is priceless, a child’s life is priceless and if it’s destroyed, it’s up to you to find out why it’s done, and who did it! And somebody must be held accountable,” explained Chief David Monias of the Pimicikamak Cree.

Chief Monias says he has not heard from anyone in the Federal government about support for his community to locate missing children and have them brought home. Adding his people have been reliving immense trauma since the discovery of 215 indigenous children buried in Kamloops BC.

“There should be criminal chargers, there should be a criminal investigation, anytime you find a grave site, unmarked, unidentified, not knowing how they died, you want to do a criminal investigation.”

He says community members have had to live without ever knowing the truth about what happened to their children, siblings and friends and they deserve to know who is responsible.

“This is genocide, these are mass graves we are talking about, we need international expertise who can work with Pimickamack and others,” said Ashton, echoing the call for the feds to fund a forensic search of residential school grounds.

Ashton adds she wants help form the International Commission on Missing persons, an organization with expertise in locating missing people who have disappeared due to human rights abuse, organized crime, and other causes.

“We can assist in mass grave excavation we can assist in collecting reference samples for DNA based identifications,” said Kathryne Bomberger, Director General of International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP).

Bomberger says she has received the call for help from Monias and is ready to assist the First Nations people in this search.

In the past the ICMP has helped unearth genocides in Iraq and Europe as well as cold case files in Canada, however Bomberger says in order for ICMP to start helping they would need to be invited by the Canadian government .

“We can do many many things but I think the most important thing is that Canada itself takes responsibility for conducting proper investigations into these mass grave sites and the families of the missing have information regarding exactly what happened, who the perpetrators were, and why this information was not made available public previously.