Catholic Archbishop says church will help identify remains found at Tk'emlups

Church has withheld key narrative documents from Kamloops residential school, said Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, academic director at the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre.

The head of the Catholic Church in B.C. has promised that all church archives and records will be given to the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation as the band tries to identify the remains of children the band said were found buried near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller said on Wednesday (June 2) that the church will be “fully transparent with our archives and records regarding all residential schools, and strongly urge all other Catholic and government organizations to do the same.”

article continues below

He added that the church will also offer technological and professional support “to help the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and other affected Nations in whatever way they choose to honour, retrieve and remember their deceased children.”

On May 27, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc reported that the unmarked graves of 215 children — some as young as three — had been found in a field close to the old school, using ground-penetrating radar.

The residential school was operated by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate from the 1890s until 1969, at which time the federal government assumed administration of the school until it closed in 1977.

The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate is a congregation of the Catholic Church.

In a statement on Twitter, Miller wrote: “I wish to apologize sincerely and profoundly to the survivors and their families, as well as to all those subsequently affected, for the anguish caused by the deplorable conduct of those Catholics who perpetrated mistreatment of any kind in these residential schools. The Church was unquestionably wrong in implementing a government colonialist policy which resulted in devastation for children, families and communities.”

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, academic director at the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at UBC, said key narrative documents from the Kamloops Indian Residential School had not been provided to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

“The churches handed over most [residential school] records, but in a few cases, the narratives were withheld, notably at Kamloops and St. Anne’s [in Ontario],” Turpel-Lafond said.

Former students of St. Anne’s have been in court with the federal government since 2013 as they seek compensation for abuses suffered.

“The schools’ narrative document is missing,” Turpel-Lafond said. “These narratives are prepared for all schools and include key pieces of information about the running of the school, notable dates, lists of principals, school attendance yearly and if there were key cases of abuse against staff or students at the school.”

Turpel-Lafond said the majority of school narrative documents had been provided to the centre, adding she hopes Miller’s statement was a “moment of significant action or reversal of position.”

© Kamloops This Week



Question of the Week POLL

The federal election is set for Sept. 20. Which local candidate gets your vote?

or  view results

Popular Kamloops This Week

Events Calendar

Help Us Help Kamloops. Support Local Media.

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Kamloops This Week is now soliciting donations from readers. This program is designed to support our local journalism in a time where our advertisers are unable to due to their own economic constraints. Kamloops This Week has always been a free product and will continue to be free. This is a means for those who can afford to support local media to help ensure those who can’t afford to can get access to trusted local information. You can make a one-time or a monthly donation of any amount and cancel at any time .

NEW: For every donation of $25 or greater, we will offer a digital advertising package to the local non-profit group of your choice.

Click on for more information or to make your donation.

Thank you in advance for your support.