More than 100 ‘missing children’ deaths now ID’d

TORONTO—An intensive review of Ontario records so far has turned up more than 100 possible cases of previously-unidentified child and youth deaths linked to Indian residential schools, the province’s chief coroner said yesterday.
The information was gleaned from close scrutiny of about 5,000 death records selected from an initial screening of 250,000 records going back to the 19th century.

“It’s staggering to think that families would not have known what happened to a child that was sent off to the residential schools,” Chief Coroner Dr. Andrew McCallum told The Canadian Press.
“There was a huge vacuum of information,” he noted. “What was fed back to the immediate family was highly inconsistent.”
At the beginning of the year, Ontario’s coroner’s office began trying to identify missing and dead children from the residential schools at the request of the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Among other things, the commission’s “Missing Children Project” has been trying to come to grips with the large number of aboriginal children who died or went missing while in the care of the scores of government-funded, church-run residential schools, the last of which shut down in the 1990s.
In all, about 150,000 aboriginal children were forced to leave their communities for the schools in an effort to assimilate them into mainstream Canadian society.
By some estimates, especially prior to the 1940s, mortality rates reached 50 percent.
Some deaths were suicides, but most fatalities were due either to disease or occurred after the children ran away from the schools, then had accidents, hypothermia, or drowned.
“They were terribly unhappy and they left,” McCallum said.
“They succumbed to various things that happen to children who are on their own in harsh environments,” he added.
The Ontario review so far has turned up 120 possibly “missing” children, although cross-referencing with commission information still needs to take place to confirm that, said Dr. David Eden, who led the records search on behalf of the coroner’s office.
McCallum, who noted the residential school deaths still resonate, also announced a joint inquest into the deaths of seven aboriginal students in Thunder Bay between 2000 and 2011.
The seven—aged 15-21—died after leaving their home communities to pursue secondary education in Thunder Bay.

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