Indecent assault charge laid after RCMP probe into abuse allegations at Manitoba residential school

A charge has been laid following a decade-long investigation into allegations of abuse at a residential school in Manitoba.

The province confirmed Thursday a person was charged with one count of indecent assault on a female related to the investigation into the former Fort Alexander Residential School northeast of Winnipeg.

Manitoba RCMP did not provide comment on the charge Thursday, but said more information would be provided in a news conference Friday morning. 

The school was opened in 1905 in the community of Fort Alexander, which later became the Sagkeeng First Nation, and closed in 1970.

Mounties have said that officers with the major crime unit began looking into the residential school in 2010 and a criminal investigation began the following year.

Police have said the investigation involved reviewing archived records of the school, including student and employee lists.

Officers have also interviewed more than 700 people across North America.

Mounties said last year that RCMP were waiting on advice from the province’s Crown prosecutors regarding charges.

Sagkeeng First Nation recently discovered 190 anomalies during a search near the Fort Alexander school using ground-penetrating radar.

Initial data shows the irregularities fit some of the criteria for graves, but the community leadership has said more information is needed.

Ground-penetrating radar was used last summer to search for possible unmarked graves around the site of the former Fort Alexander school. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

The Fort Alexander school had a reputation for abuse.

Survivors told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission about starvation and harsh discipline. Children from nearly two dozen First Nations attended the school for about 10 months of the year.

The commission’s final report said Phil Fontaine, former grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and a past national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, put experiences at residential schools on the national agenda in 1990 when he disclosed his own sexual abuse at the Fort Alexander school.

Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools or by the latest reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

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