The lead investigator in the search for unmarked graves at a former residential institution near the Williams Lake First Nation in central British Columbia says the latest phase of their work has uncovered 66 additional “reflections,” indicating children’s graves.
Whitney Spearing told a news conference that the results of Phase 2 of their investigation show there were crimes committed against children associated with the Catholic operation of St. Joseph’s Mission.
Spearing says that in addition to the reflections found in a technical survey, their interviews with survivors and archival records revealed that babies born as a result of child sexual assault at the mission were disposed of by incineration on and off-site.
Spearing says they found “a minimum” of 28 children died at the mission, which operated between 1886 and 1981, many of them buried in unmarked graves around the site.
A year ago, the nation announced the first phase of its investigation had uncovered 93 other “reflections.”
Williams Lake First Nation Chief Willie Sellers says the next steps will be to potentially exhume bodies in the areas that have already been scanned, showing a total of 159 possible unmarked graves.
He says children from 48 different nations attended the school, and engaging with those nations in the process of potentially exhuming bodies is a “scary thought.”
The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program has a hotline to help residential school survivors and their relatives suffering with trauma invoked by the recall of past abuse. The number is 1-866-925-4419.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2023.