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Results to be released after second search for graves at B.C. residential school

WILLIAMS LAKE, B.C. – A First Nation in central British Columbia is ready to announce results from the second phase of an investigation of grounds around the former St. Joseph’s Mission residential school, outside Williams Lake.

A preliminary search in 2021 found what the Williams Lake First Nation said were 93 “reflections,” indicating unmarked graves of children around the now-closed school, roughly 500 kilometres north of Vancouver.

The First Nation says a meeting will be held with the chiefs of communities directly affected by the latest search, giving them a chance to ask questions of the technical experts involved in the second phase of the investigation.

A public announcement will follow this afternoon in Williams Lake and a social media post from the First Nation says a Sacred Fire will burn until Saturday night and will include health and wellness supports for those affected.

Chief Willie Sellars says the second phase of the investigation at St. Joseph’s Mission has given his First Nation “greater clarity” about what must happen next.

The probe began after ground-penetrating radar located what are believed to be more than 200 graves at the former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., prompting similar searches at former schools in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

In the statement posted on the Williams Lake First Nation website, Sellars says all the communities involved must support each other and “move forward in a positive direction.”

“We will continue to pursue the truth and we will continue to seek justice for those children and their families,” Sellars says in the statement.

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation lists 4,130 names on its memorial register of children who never returned home from forced attendance at residential schools across Canada.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2023.


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