RCMP investigating B.C. residential school site after discovery of children's remains

The RCMP has launched an investigation at the former residential school site in Kamloops, B.C., where the remains of 215 Indigenous children were recently uncovered.

The Tk’emlúps Rural RCMP released a statement Thursday confirming that members have attended the former Kamloops Indian Residential School since last month's heartbreaking discovery and opened a file on the matter.

The detachment commander, Staff Sgt. Bill Wallace, said Mounties have been working with Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc community leaders to determine "the next steps and the best way to be involved in any investigative avenues explored going forward, while at the same time being supportive, respectful, and culturally sensitive to the Indigenous communities that are impacted."

The Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc First Nation is leading the investigation with the RCMP's support, Wallace added.

Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc leaders are scheduled to hold a news conference on Friday.

Earlier in the day, the former chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission spoke before a House of Commons committee and expressed concerns about the RCMP's handling of the investigation.

"They are now beginning to question those who have made this story available," Murray Sinclair said. "Unfortunately, in a typical heavy-handed and ham-handed police way, they are simply intimidating people rather than helping them."

The discovery of the remains, which was made possible with the help of a ground-penetrating radar specialist, was announced by Tk'emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir last week. The news sent shockwaves across the country and prompted growing calls for the government to fund and support investigations at other residential school sites.

It also brought back painful memories for many survivors, including Randy Joe, who attended the Sechelt Indian Residential School on Vancouver Island.

"We were all sexually and physically abused, every day," Joe said. "You see the nun or the priest go this way, you go that way."

The B.C. Assembly of First Nations noted the investigation into the Kamloops school is still in its early stages, and that there should be independent oversight, possibly by a third party or the United Nations.

Earlier this week, the federal government announced $27 million of previously announced funding is now available to help First Nations communities locate and memorialize children who died in the residential school system.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Bhinder Sajan

If you are a former residential school student in distress, or have been affected by the residential school system and need help, you can contact the 24-hour Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419

Additional mental-health support and resources for Indigenous people are available here.