Jun 22, 2021 16:35 UTC
  • Iran, China, Russia, others urge probe into case of indigenous mass grave in Canada

Iran, China, Russia, and several other countries have called for an independent probe into the case of a mass grave that was discovered at the site of a boarding school in Canada last month and that contained the remains of more than 200 indigenous children.

“We call for a thorough and impartial investigation into all cases where crimes were committed against the indigenous people, especially children, so as to bring those responsible to justice, and offer full remedy to victims,” Jiang Duan, a senior official at China’s mission to the United Nations (UN) in Geneva, told the Human Rights Council on Tuesday, while reading a statement on behalf of the Chinese government and countries including Iran, Russia, Belarus, Venezuela, North Korea, and Syria.

The remains of 215 indigenous children, some as young as three years old, were discovered in the mass grave at the site of a former Church and residential school in British Colombia in May, raising further questions about Canada’s record of horrific abuses against indigenous people.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the discovery as “heartbreaking,” but no action was taken to determine the circumstances under which the killings took place or who was responsible.

A 2015 investigation into Canada’s residential school system concluded that the system, typically run by Christian churches on behalf of Ottawa, forcibly separated indigenous children from their homes and constituted “cultural genocide.”

The investigation also found cases of physical abuse, rape, malnutrition, and other atrocities against the school children.

Leslie Norton, Canada’s permanent representative to the UN, told the Human Rights Council that the incident in Kamloops was “neither an exception nor an isolated incident.”

She also acknowledged that indigenous children had been exposed to severe injustice and mistreatment over decades in Canada.

The Kamloops Indian residential school was established in 1890 under the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church, and was closed in 1978. The educational facility was part of a cross-Canada network of residential schools created to forcibly assimilate indigenous children by removing them from their communities and forbidding them from speaking their native languages or performing cultural practices.

The UN has called the Kamloops discovery “shocking” and “painful” and called on Canada to conduct “prompt and exhaustive investigations” for victims.