Murray Sinclair calls for independent investigation into burial sites at residential schools

Retired senator Murray Sinclair, who chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, is calling for an independent investigation to examine all burial sites near former residential schools.

He told a House of Commons committee on Thursday that such a probe should not be run by the federal government, but should be overseen by a parliamentary committee that will ensure that it is done in a proper way.

He said there are too many unanswered questions, such as how many burial sites exist in Canada, where they’re located and how many children are buried in them.

The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announced last week that preliminary findings from a survey conducted by a specialist in ground-penetrating radar indicated the remains of around 215 children could be buried on the site.

Sinclair said he was also told Thursday morning that the RCMP is launching an investigation into “the bodies that have been located in Kamloops. And they are now beginning to question those that have made this story available.”

Sinclair criticized the police involvement, accusing the RCMP of “intimidating” people involved with the search and said Mounties should “not be pursuing those who are revealing information,” such as researchers.

“The young lady who was the one who did the research on the ground-penetrating radar, for example, was quite scared of the … approach that the RCMP have taken with her,” he said.

“And I don’t blame her. And my advice to her and others has been to make sure that she has legal counsel available to her so that she is not mistreated going forward.”

Murray Sinclair says independent investigation needed for burial sites near residential schools:

Retired senator and chair of Truth and Reconciliation Commission Murray Sinclair told a parliamentary committee that he wants to see an independent investigation examine all burial sites near former residential schools. 1:29

In a written statement, the local RCMP detachment confirmed that it has opened a police file, but said the local First Nations band remains the lead on the investigation.

“The Tk’emlúps Rural RCMP has attended the site, participated in meetings, and will continue working closely with the Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc community leaders in determining the next steps and the best way to be involved in any investigative avenues explored going forward, while at the same time being supportive, respectful, and culturally sensitive to the indigenous communities that are impacted,” said detachment commander Staff Sgt. Bill Wallace in the statement.

The Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation reported last week that ground-penetrating radar had located what it believes to be the remains of 215 children in an unmarked burial site on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report on Canada’s residential school system details the harsh mistreatment of Indigenous children at the government-funded, church-operated institutions, where ongoing research says at least 4,100 children died in a climate of neglect.

Sinclair said he has heard from about 200 residential school survivors over the past week who have shared their grief and frustration over the news from Kamloops. He said uncovering the full truth is important for both the survivors and their families, as well as the families of those who worked there.

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