“We mourned these children”
Despite all this evidence of school deaths, no trace has yet surfaced of a cemetery in the institution – no scraps of paper, crosses or stones indicating who might be under the ground.
Sister Marie Zarowny, chair of the Order of St. Anne’s board of directors, which provided teachers and nurses to the school, told CBC News that a fire destroyed the first 30 years of records of the institution. She said that to her knowledge, no student has ever been buried on the school grounds.
She said if a child died at Royal Inland Hospital, the body would not be sent back to school. If a student died in school, the body would be sent back to their home community for burial.
“We mourned these children at school. We held a ceremony for them, but they were (…) returned to their parents, ”Zarowny said.
She said that students from Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc who died at school were buried in the community cemetery. There are clues to another cemetery now forgotten in the records, she said, but could not confirm any aspect of it.
“I actually don’t know if this reference is from this school or another school,” she said.
Due to the destroyed records, the actual number of students who died at residential school may never be known. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was created to delve into the long history of schools, found that at least 4,100 children have died in these institutions.
The Catholic Church has faced numerous calls for the publication of all documents relating to the residential schools.
The same uncertainty hangs over the location of the cemeteries. Many children were buried in anonymous graves, some of which are now lost in time.
The Catholic Church is an institution that holds large pieces of this history in its archives. Catholic entities operated about 75 percent of residential schools.
The church has faced numerous calls, from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau all the way down, to release all residential school records, in order to augment the government’s incomplete record.
Zarowny said his order shared all relevant documents with Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc that could help identify the suspected remains on the grounds of the Kamloops Residential School.
She said the Sisters of St. Anne turned over what they considered to be residential school files to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
But the order has yet to approve the transfer of its cases to the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation, said Stephanie Scott, executive director of the institute.
” The [Sisters of St. Anne’s] are still unwilling to allow the disclosure of [its] documents currently in the possession of the Government of Canada, ”Scott said in a statement to CBC News.
Several Catholic entities have never submitted any file to the CVR. According to an internal CVR document obtained by CBC News, 17 Catholic entities did not turn over any archival documents to the commission.
“There are a lot of documents in the church records that we have never been able to see,” Tom McMahon, former TRC general counsel, told CBC.
McMahon said the Catholic entities that provided the files made their own decisions on what was considered a “relevant” document to hand over.
The Oblates of Mary Immaculata, who ran the Kamloops residential school, turned over to the TRC what they deemed to be relevant documents, according to the TRC’s internal document.
McMahon said Catholic entities that provided files made their own decisions on what was considered a “relevant” document. He said Catholic entities have files related to church functions and staff files.
“When you start talking about personnel records, they don’t see it as relevant to kids and children’s education,” McMahon said.
“When we talk about child deaths, you want to think of church records, baptism records, death records held by the church.
McMahon said one of the potentially richest sources of survivor testimony is held by the Federal Department of Justice in documents relating to approximately 4,000 civil actions filed by survivors against Canada and the various churches that led boarding schools. He said most of these files were never turned over to the TRC.
Survivors and descendants have long spoken of anonymous graves and children who never made it home. Their appeals reached the House of Commons in 2007 and then Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice, who asked the Acting Executive Director of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to start working on the issue.
According to a 2008 memo obtained by CBC News, the TRC asked the Research Department of Indian Residential Schools Resolutions Canada, a federal agency created to deal with a multitude of civil claims filed by survivors, to conduct an internal search. in cemetery records.
Many schools have returned without any cemetery records, including Kamloops Residential School, according to a preliminary report.
But those who went to the institution knew differently. They heard that children were buried in an apple orchard.
“We used to go down to the apple orchard there to steal apples because we’re hungry, and I thought to myself that it was probably there. [the burial site] is, ”said Gerry Oleman. “It’s the only place I can think of. This is where they are. You know, when you’re a kid… you hear things. “