Missing Children

Current Reality

Justice Murray Sinclair, who heads the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, says the federal government stopped recording the deaths around 1920 after the chief medical officer at Indian Affairs suggested children were dying at an alarming rate.

Global News, May 31, 2015

May 27, 2021 –Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir confirms an unthinkable loss that was spoken about but never documented by the Kamloops Indian Residential School…the remains of 215 children who were students of the Kamloops Indian Residential School. “We had a knowing in our community that we were able to verify. To our knowledge, these missing children are undocumented deaths,” stated Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir. “Some were as young as three years old. We sought out a way to confirm that knowing out of deepest respect and love for those lost children and their families, understanding that Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc is the final resting place of these children.”

This work was undertaken by the C7élksten̓ s re Secwépemc ne Ck̓ úl̓ tens ell ne Xqwelténs (Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Language and Culture Department) with ceremonial Knowledge Keepers who ensured that the work was conducted respectfully in light of the serious nature of the investigation with cultural protocols being upheld.

Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc is following the necessary steps regarding these preliminary findings. This includes:

  • Engaging with the coroner
  • Reaching out to the home communities who had children who attended the Kamloops Indian Residential School
  • Taking measures to ensure that the locations of the remains are protected
  • The Secwépemc Museum Archivist is working with the Royal British Columbia Museum amongst others, to seek out any existing records of these deaths.


June 1, 2021: Toronto Star – The Star reached out to Reconciliation Canada, The Native Women’s Association and Brenda Wastasecoot at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Indigenous Studies to compile a list of actions the public can take to urge the government to go beyond acknowledgement, thoughts and prayers:

  • Understand the Truth and Reconciliations; Calls to Actions
  • Ask for immediate reinstatement of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation
  • Sigh the petition for a National Day of Mourning
  • Encourage survivors to participate in a lawsuit from the federal Indian Day School Class Action
  • Read the Taimainnut basic counselling booklet from the Pauktuuitit Inuit Women of Canada
  • Donate to Indian residential school survivors at the Indian Residential School Survivors Society

Calls to Action

Call to Action # 71Chief coroners & vital stats agencies to provide records of deaths
Call to Action # 72Develop a National Residential School Student Death Register
Call to Action # 73Establish an online registry of residential school cemeteries
Call to Action # 74Informing families of child’s burial location and reburial
Call to Action # 75Identify, protect and commemorate residential school cemeteries
Call to Action # 76Principles for those involved in residential school cemeteries

Current and Ongoing Problems

Continued failure of the federal government to address Calls to Action # 74-76 that after six years have still NOT STARTED after their initial release on June 2, 2015 in the TRC Summary Report.

May 28, 2021: Toronto Star – The bodies of 215 Indigenous children were discovered in unmarked graves on the grounds of the former Kamloops Residential School located in the territory of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation. The Truth and Reconciliation records the death of 51 children dying at the Kamloops Residential School between 1914 and 1963. The commission noted in its 2015 report that officials in 1918 believed children at the school were not being adequately fed, leading to malnutrition. Ry Moran, founding director of the Nations Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba …said as many as 400 unmarked burial locations are believed to exist across the country, but only about 100 have been identified.

May 28, 2021 – Three of the Six Calls to Action of “Missing Children and Burial Information” Calls to Action have not even started – six years after the Summary Report of the TRC was first released on June 2,  2015. All three are specifically directed at what the discovery at the former Kelowna Residential School address:

  • Identify child’s burial location and notify families for reburial ceremonies
  • identify, document, maintain, commemorate and protect residential school cemeteries or other sites at which residential school children were buried
  • All Policies and protocols relating to residential school cemeteries are Indigenous led

June 2, 2021: CTV News – In Budget 2019, the federal government allocated $33.8M specifically for Calls to Action # 72 “to develop and maintain the National Residential School Student Death Register” and Call to Action # 73 to “establish and maintain an online registry of residential school cemeteries, including where possible, plot maps showing the location of deceased residential school children”.

Of that amount $6.8M was for the Student Death registry and the online registry of residential school cemeteries. The balance was left unallocated until June 2, 2021 when $27M was suddenly made available to “assist Indigenous communities in locating and memorializing children who died at residential schools”.

Six years to the day that those Calls to Action were first issued.

June 1, 2021: Toronto Star – In 2009 – when Conservatives were in power – there had been a request for $1.5 million, which would have been used to help locate gravesites, among other things.

The request was denied.

The landmark Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report on the legacy of the residential school system in Canada devoted an entire section to missing children and unmarked burial sites and made six related calls to action.

June 2, 2021: National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) and the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre (IRSHDC) at UBC – NCTR and IRSHDC re calling on the federal government to work in collaboration with residential school Survivors and Indigenous governments to establish a national framework for investigation and protection of burial sites, consistent with the rights, laws, jurisdiction and protocols of the affected Nations.

The NCTR and IRSHDC emphasize that all potential residential school burial sites must be investigated and documented. Until such investigations can take place, these sites must be protected from erosion, destruction, manipulation or disturbance.

Hiding, damaging, interfering with or destroying the graves of residential school children must be recognized as a crime and prosecuted as such. In addition, national standards must be put in place concerning use of investigative technologies such as ground scanning radar to respect the privacy of affected families and ensure that any evidence of crimes is not compromised. A renewed commitment to ensure the affected Nations have all records related to missing and buried children and documentation where records are absent is urgently required.

Finally, all measures to investigate and protect burial sites must be consistent with the rights of Indigenous peoples in domestic and international law, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This includes respect for the decision-making authority of Indigenous governments and the right of Indigenous peoples to control their own lands and territories. The UN Declaration specifically calls on states to work with Indigenous peoples to develop appropriate mechanisms to protect and return human remains.

June 3, 2015 – Murray Sinclair, who led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission “called for an independent investigation of the broader question of unmarked sites across the country and demanded it not be conducted under the auspices of the federal government.”

June 5, 2021 – Toronto Star – The federal government, so far, has refused to legally compel the Catholic Church to release all documents relating the residential school system. The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate who operated the Kamloops Residential School “have yet to release any records about the Kamloops school. The Catholic order, which ran about 47% of Canada’s residential schools, says it has released some records while retaining control over others, claiming privacy or historical inaccuracies.

Ongoing failure to deliver records of deaths of Aboriginal children in the care of Residential School authorities

As of 2014, as stated in “Honoring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future, Summary of the Final report of the TRC (July 23, 2015) in addition to the office in British Columbia, vital statistics offices in Alberta, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Yukon, and Nunavut had responded to the Commission’s request for records for the National Residential School Student Death Register.

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation revealed the names of 2,800 children who died in residential schools in a ceremony in Gatineau, Quebec. A 50-metre long blood red cloth bearing the names of each child and the schools they attended was unfurled and carried through a crowd of Indigenous children, elders and chiefs, residential school survivors and others. Ry Moran NCTR Director, says an additional 1,600 also died but remain unnamed. There were also many hundred who simply vanished, undocumented in any records so far uncovered. (Toronto Star). In total, 4,037 Indigenous children are listed in the Memorial Register:

# of Deaths Description
1,953 Positively identified
365 Additional names added to memorial register after additional investigation
477 Under investigation
1,242 Known to have passed away but whose names are not yet known
Brandon Indian Residential School: Brandon, Manitoba

Aug. 28, 2018 – The unmarked graves of 51 children who died at the Brandon Indian Residential School are physically located on a Recreational Vehicle (RV) campsite that now owns the former school property.

Grand Chief Arlen Dumas of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) wants the city of Brandon to protect the unmarked graves that are now part of a RV campsite. “History hasn’t been properly acknowledged when it comes to the Brandon Indian Residential School,” explained Grand Chief Dumas. “We need to remember these children by ensuring that each one of them has a marked grave.”

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs encourages the City of Brandon and the current owners of the Turtle Crossing RV Park to move forward on Call to Action # 75 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

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