A discovery of decades-old child remains near the Mohawk Institute last year was the catalyst for a larger probe into historical deaths...
“We’re looking at our files from the past many years,” Dr. Dirk Huyer told The Spectator.
Huyer said he plans to evaluate past cases of unmarked burials “in the vicinity of residential schools” to see if they’ve missed deaths linked to the institutions that sought to systemically — and, often, violently — strip Indigenous children of their culture, language and identity.
The coroner’s office will begin with files starting in the 1980s.
Plans to review old cases follow an announcement on Friday that a newly created task force responsible for investigating deaths at the Mohawk Institute would probe an unmarked burial found by police Aug. 5, 2020, near Glenwood Drive in Brantford to determine whether it is connected to the former residential school.
Archaeologists’ report revealed the bones, initially deemed not of forensic interest, belonged to a child.
Lawyer and former Truth and Reconciliation Commission director Kimberly Murray, who is heading up a survivor-led search of the Mohawk Institute, said Six Nations archeology contacted her after receiving the report in the summer.
“It was concerning to archeology because it’s a child,” she said.
The archeology company presented its findings to survivors, community members and the task force — comprising three police services and representatives from the province’s death investigation system — it was decided there should be further investigation.
“We’re like, that needs to go to the task force because it’s starting to look a lot like this might be a residential school child,” Murray said. “We don’t know ... but there are some things pointing that way.”
Huyer said sex, race and identity have not been determined.
The remains discovered in August 2020 were not believed to be of forensic interest, in part due to their age.
“Based upon the anthropologist’s examination of the bones and the scene, it was not felt to be representative of a new crime scene or a typical crime-scene location,” he said.
Historically, remains approximately 50 years or older would not be considered “new.”
Instead, the burial site was referred to the registrar from the Funeral, Burial and Cremation Services Act, who worked with the landowner to conduct an archeological assessment. The assessment revealed the remains were bones of an adolescent — a child under the age of 14.
“In retrospect ... given the proximity to the Mohawk Institute and the recognition of unmarked burials in locations that are at or associated with residential schools, this is obviously of forensic interest,” Huyer said.