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Residential school survivors request criminal investigation into deaths at former Brantford site

Last Updated Jul 21, 2021 at 2:19 pm MDT

Editor’s note: This article contains some disturbing details about experiences at residential schools in Canada and may be upsetting to some readers. For those in need of emotional support, the 24-hour Residential Schools Crisis Line is available at 1-866-925-4419.

Residential school survivors are asking police for an official criminal investigation into the deaths of dozens of children at the former Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford, Ontario.

Survivor Dawn Hill recalled her harrowing times at the school, saying child deaths were common and shrouded in secrecy.

“When children died we were never told what happened to them,” she said Wednesday. “These deaths are highly suspicious … We request police to investigate the deaths of these children and where they are buried.”

Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Chief, Mark B. Hill, said there are records of 54 child deaths from the school, which closed in 1970.

“What we don’t know is where those little bodies are buried,” Chief Hill said.

Chief Hill said the sprawling former school had 500 acres of property, and urged that “every last acre needs to be searched.”

“This is enough to trigger a criminal investigation,” he said. “We want to ensure there is justice and accountability.”

He said he wants Six Nations to work with survivors along with Brantford police and the OPP.

The Office of the Chief Coroner and Ontario Forensic Pathology Service will also be supporting the investigation.

Ontario’s Chief Coroner Dr. Dirk Huyer said in a release, they will provide scientific and technical support in examining burial sites of children’s remains found in or around former residential schools.

“Time is of the essence,” Chief Hill said, adding that no funding from the federal or provincial governments has been received for the probe.

The Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council will be supporting the creation of a Survivor Secretariat that will have $1 million in funding so they can begin the investigation. It will be used until funding from the provincial and federal governments is obtained.

Chief Hill also derided Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for not responding to a letter requesting help dated May 31.

“This is about recovering all of our children,” Hill concluded.

CityNews has reached out to Brantford Police and Ontario Provincial Police for their response to the request for an investigation and is awaiting a response.