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Editor’s Note: on May 27, 2021, it was announced that 215 unmarked graves were discovered on the grounds of a former residential school for Indigenous (“First Nations”) children in Kamloops, a town in the Canadian province of British Columbia. In the following weeks unmarked graves were also found at similar institutions in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and elsewhere in British Columbia. Between 1863 and 1998, more than 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families and placed in these boarding schools, which numbered more than 130, many of them, like Kamloops, the largest, operated by Roman Catholic religious orders. Opened in 1890, the school had as many as 500 students when enrollment was at its highest in the 1950s. The Canadian government took over administration of the school in 1969, operating it as a residence for local students until 1978, when it was closed. A commission formed in 2008 to investigate the impact of this system on First Nations communities found that large numbers of children who attended these schools never returned to their homes and families. The historic Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, released in 2015, described the policy as “cultural genocide,” as the children were cut off from their traditions and forbidden to speak their own languages in an effort to assimilate them into mainstream Canadian society.


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