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Canadian police reveal decade-long Manitoba residential school inquiry

BBC News

Canadian police say they have spent over a decade investigating abuse allegations at a former residential school for indigenous children.

The government-funded Fort Alexander school in Manitoba was one of dozens of such institutions founded to forcibly assimilate indigenous children.

For years, activists and survivors have alleged systematic abuse at the school, which closed in 1970.

Police on Tuesday revealed that they had launched a criminal probe in 2011.

The Manitoba branch of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) made the rare comment about the ongoing investigation after an inquiry from a local media outlet.

As part of their search for potential victims, police have said they spoke to more than 700 people. Ultimately, a total of 75 witness and victim statements were obtained since the inquiry began.

To date, no criminal charges have been filed, as evidence is still being reviewed.

The RCMP said it is “imperative” that the privacy of those victims, suspects and witnesses be respected.

Chief Derrick Henderson of the Sagkeeng First Nation – the community most affected by the investigation – said that privacy violations “will not only cause further trauma to everyone involved, but also potentially compromise this highly sensitive investigation”.

Government-run boarding schools in Canada were part of a policy to attempt to assimilate children and destroy indigenous cultures and languages.

More than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were taken from their families and placed in residential schools between 1874 and 1996.

The policy traumatised generations of indigenous children, who were forced to adopt Christianity, drop their native languages and speak English or French.

In May, the discovery of 215 unmarked graves near the Kamloops Indian Residential School brought fresh attention to this dark chapter of Canadian history.

In the months that followed, the tally of unmarked graves across the country rose to more than 1,300.

In July, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the assimilation policy “incredibly harmful”.

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