In this file photo dated to July 6, 2021, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau kneels to place a teddy bear at an unmarked grave on Cowessess First Nation, where a search had found 751 unmarked graves from the former Marieval Indian Residential School near Grayson, Saskatchewan, Canada. Ground-penetrating radar has detected 17 suspected grave sites around the property of the former Alberni Indian Residential School in British Columbia, Canada, local media reported on Feb 21, 2023. (PHOTO / AFP)
OTTAWA – Ground-penetrating radar has detected 17 suspected grave sites around the property of the former Alberni Indian Residential School in British Columbia, Canada, local media reported Tuesday.
The 17 suspected graves represent the minimum number believed to be on 12 of 100 hectares that they searched, the Canadian Press reported, citing Brian Whiting, a geophysics division manager with GeoScan, a local land surveyor that conducted the scans since last July.
The Tseshaht First Nation on Vancouver Island said its interviews with survivors, the historical records and other documents showed that 67 students died at the school
The Tseshaht First Nation on Vancouver Island said its interviews with survivors, the historical records and other documents showed that 67 students died at the school.
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Many of the 67 children had died from medical conditions, said Sheri Meding, the lead researcher who did the work with historical records and survivors' statements, adding that there were a number of recurring themes when interviewing survivors of the school, including forced abortions, multiple burial locations without markers, students finding skulls and human remains around the grounds and witnessing small coffins being taken out of the building at night.
Tseshaht Elected Chief Councillor Wahmeesh said it was essential to embark on what he called "this journey of truth" despite the process being difficult for survivors.
He said any legal investigations would have to be done by an independent body with Tseshaht consent, and not by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), because of the force's role in residential schools and removing children from their homes.
He also called on Canada to conduct a review to determine the RCMP's role in the Alberni school.
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Children from at least 70 Indigenous communities around British Columbia attended the school while it operated from 1900 to 1973.
The site is the latest of several Canadian locations being searched for possible unmarked graves of children who died while being forced to attend residential schools, the Canadian Press reported.