A set of 182 unmarked graves has been discovered at a residential school premise in Canada, where children from ethnic communities were forcibly brought in to blend with Canadian culture.
Despite protests by families, several thousand children were forcibly taken away, and many died while attending these residential schools. They were tortured without enough nutrition or food under poor hygienic conditions. Their bodies were buried in neglected graves, which are now being discovered one set after another.
The excavation was carried out by experts using radar detection equipment under the supervision of Lower Kootenay Band, a First Nation based in southeastern British Columbia, at the St Eugene Mission School near Cranbrook. Funded by the Government of Canada, the school was run by the Catholic Church from 1912 to the 1970s. The government-funded a total of over 130 schools.
The tragic discovery follows the unearthing of another set of unmarked graves of 215 people in Kamloops, British Columbia, in May, and 751 more unmarked graves at another school in Marieval, Saskatchewan, last week. The majority of the remains were found to be of children, reports show.
The recent discovery came on the eve of Canada Day celebrated on July 1, the anniversary of the formation of the Dominion of Canada in 1867, in which three British colonies came together. Several indigenous organisations have demanded that the celebration be called off, given the discovery.
According to a commission of inquiry, Canada had committed "cultural genocide" and acknowledged that around 4,000 died in the process of forced assimilation.
With the discovery of mass graves, a show of solidarity erupted in full swing across Canada. Several pulled out from the celebration and demolished statues of those who have set up such residential schools in various municipalities.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday said the discoveries have forced the country to reflect on the historic and ongoing injustices that Indigenous peoples face.