The United Nations Human Rights Office is calling on all levels of Canadian governments to investigate the deaths of Indigenous children at residential schools and to intensify efforts to find those who are missing.
A spokeswoman for the human rights office says the detection of what are believed to be 215 bodies of Indigenous children at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., is “shocking and reopens painful wounds.”
Marta Hurtado says Canada must ensure “prompt and exhaustive investigations” into the deaths and search any unmarked graves.
She says healing will only be possible once families and Indigenous communities are given access to documents about missing or dead family members and the remains are properly identified.
Hurtado says appropriate compensation, official apologies, memorials and rehabilitative services should also be considered, calling those measures “cornerstones for reconciliation.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said it is the “fault of Canada” that children who died during forced attendance at residential schools are not the parents, grandparents, elders and community leaders they should have become.
Hurtado says “historic abuses against Indigenous children in government-run educational and health institutions continue to affect the lives of Indigenous communities.”
“The intergenerational impacts deriving from them continue to be significant, including at the linguistic, economic and cultural level,” she says in the statement.
“Lack of exhaustive clarification and access to truth and redress for what happened during this dark period compounds this.”
The Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced last week that ground-penetrating radar had located what are believed to be the unmarked graves of students at the Kamloops school.
A more complete report on the findings is expected later this month.
The discovery adds momentum to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Hurtado says.
She also called on Trudeau to establish a specific legal organization, with government and Indigenous members, to protect and manage burial sites, and that the United Nations is able to offer technical help.