A call for criminal investigations is being issued by the Chief of the Penticton Indian Band in the wake of the recent discoveries of 93 graves at St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School near Williams Lake.
“Everyone that had any part of this (should be investigated),” Greg Gabriel told the Western News on Thursday.
“Right from the Vatican to the Roman Catholic Church to the government of Canada.”
The announcement from Williams Lake First Nation on Jan. 25 brought back feelings of anger for Gabriel, who describes the findings of the unmarked remains as crimes against humanity.
Preliminary findings last week revealed a history of cover-up and abuse, along with the discovery of unmarked graves within a 14-hectare parcel of land.
The school was operational from 1891 to 1981.
“There’s so much anger across Canada to the extent that our own church here in the Penticton Indian Band was burned down (several months ago) because people were angry,” Gabriel said.
“This reignites all of the pain and anguish, not only because of the poor children that never came home but the survivors that still live with this, bringing back all the pain they endured.”
It doesn’t matter how long it takes for criminal investigations, according to Gabriel.
“Whatever it takes to hold the people involved in this accountable, we need to take the necessary time to get it done.”
He described the actions from government leaders at all levels in response to residential school findings as “empty words and gestures.
“It infuriates me when they do that and there’s no action behind it. Nothing has been done.”
A criminal investigation into the groups involved in the history of residential schools is the start of how to make things right, he said.
“We’re now over 7,000 unmarked graves and it’s an unbelievable atrocity.
“These are criminal acts and need to be treated as criminal acts.”