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For immediate release
April 5, 2022
Treaty 5 – Cross Lake Band/Pimicikamak Cree Nation – The Cross Lake Band has begun an investigation into the St. Joseph’s Residential School that was managed by the Roman Catholic (RC) Church in Cross Lake, Manitoba. The school operated from 1912 to 1969. The St. Joseph’s Residential School was the main RC school for Northern Manitoba.
Sadly, it is now common knowledge that other First Nations across Canada have discovered unmarked graves in their territories where residential schools were located, all of which adds to the already dark legacy of the residential school system initiated by the federal government in the 1800s. The St. Joseph’s Residential School closed in 1969.
“It is now our duty to search and locate many of the missing and murdered children from the residential institutions. We have identified 85 names of children who had died while attending residential institutions in Cross Lake,” shared Chief David Monias. “We are unsure where they were buried, or if the list we have is an actual record of the true numbers of children who had died in the residential institutions. We do know there is one mass grave of the children who died as a result of the fire that destroyed one the residential schools. In fact, there were two residential schools in Cross Lake, and both were destroyed by fire. Although Pope Francis made a historic apology last week, it saddens me he did not acknowledge the unmarked graves of the children who never made it home. If the Pope should visit Canada, then he should visit Pimicikamak. We have sent the letter of invite should he come to Canada.”
The investigation will include ground searches using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) of the old residential school grounds. St. Joseph’s Residential School Survivors and knowledge keepers will play a critical role in the search. In addition, the Nation intends to collect all relevant information from organizations – government, medical, church – and develop a modern database that will contain all the names of the students that attended the residential school from the period of 1912 to 1969, and where they came from.
Reported deaths of children will also be reviewed with professional consultants. So far, 85 children have been identified by a researcher. The Nation also plans to erect a permanent memorial monument to honour the former students, including all Cross Lake students that attended other residential schools. To open this process at the community level, a gathering will take place in Cross Lake as soon as all restrictions are lifted, at which time, media and dignitaries will be invited.
The Cross Lake Band/Pimicikamak Cree Nation calls on all levels of government, provincial and federal, to collaborate with the investigation, including the Roman Catholic Church authority in Manitoba and the Vatican in Rome. The Nation does not wish to encounter any unnecessary obstacle, hinderance, or run-around as it conducts the investigation, particularly in the access of critical documents held by the church and government bodies, and medical summaries held by the Province of Manitoba.
“When you lose an Elder, you lose a part of your history and similarly, when you lose a child, you lose a part of your future. This was the intent of the Canadian government and the religious institutions that were part of the residential school era,” said Chief Monias. “It is called genocide!”
The Nation desires to bring continued healing to all residential school Survivors, including the citizens of Cross Lake who attended residential schools in various places, and healing to the children of Survivors. The Nation acknowledges that Pope Francis has offered an apology to the Survivors of the residential schools. There is still plenty of work that lies ahead. The Nation acknowledges the strength, courage, and resilience of all residential school Survivors. Support for Survivors will continue.
This monumental initiative is not only a sacred journey for the Nation, but a healing journey.
“It is long past time that the Church will begin to take responsibility for its role in the residential school system. It was a dark chapter of Canada’s colonialist history, one which the Church was a key co-author.”
– Murray Sinclair, former chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, April 1, 2022
For media inquiries, contact:
Melanie Ferris, Director of Communications
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak
Email: [email protected]