WARNING: This story contains distressing details.
Manitoba RCMP say they have been investigating allegations of sexual abuse at a former residential school in Sagkeeng First Nation for more than a decade.
The Fort Alexander Residential School opened in 1904 on what is now known as Sagkeeng First Nation — which is about 120 kilometres north of Winnipeg. It closed in 1970 but continued to operate as a day school for a number of years.
In a Tuesday morning news release, Manitoba RCMP said their major crimes unit began looking into allegations of sexual abuse at the school in February 2010 and launched a formal criminal investigation a year later.
RCMP say they obtained 75 statements from witnesses and victims statements over the course of the investigation.
Before that, they also combed through archival material in Manitoba and Ottawa, going through thousands of documents such as student and employee lists and quarterly returns, the news release says.
In addition, the investigation involved going door-to-door in the area of Sagkeeng First Nation and nearby Powerview.
After an extensive investigation that involved more than 80 RCMP officers speaking with more than 700 people, the police force forwarded its findings to the Manitoba Prosecution Service to review and determine whether charges are warranted.
No charges have been laid at this time.
This is the only investigation into a residential school currently underway in the province, Manitoba RCMP said in Tuesday's release.
The RCMP typically does not discuss ongoing investigations, but says it decided to make this one public after an inquiry from the Winnipeg Free Press, which first reported on the RCMP investigation.
"Due to the many people affected by this investigation as well as the larger social implications, it was determined to be in the public interest to provide as much information on the ongoing investigation as we can," RCMP said in the news release.
Elders and survivors in Sagkeeng First Nation have long spoken of abuse at the school and of missing children. Some of those stories were included in hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Chief Derrick Henderson said last week.
That prompted the community to raise money to hire a professional drone services company to conduct the search of the school grounds for potential unmarked graves using a drone and ground-penetrating radar technology.
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) is not commenting on the investigation at this time, to avoid impacting its outcome, said Grand Chief Arlen Dumas.
He said AMC is supporting Sagkeeng Chief Derrick Henderson and his council members as they work with the RCMP.
Support is available for anyone affected by the lingering effects of residential school and those who are triggered by the latest reports.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for residential school survivors and others affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.
Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca