By Calvi Leon
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Investigators probing possible deaths of missing children on the grounds of a former Southwestern Ontario residential school are asking the public for help.
Anyone with information about potential deaths at Mohawk Institute Residential School near Brantford can call a new toll-free tip line, Six Nations, Brantford and provincial police said Monday.
“Investigators want to hear from survivors of the Mohawk Institute, who have any information or witnessed any criminal acts that could have led to any deaths of children at the facility,” police said. Investigators also are seeking information about missing children who attended the school.
A task force of the three police forces, supported by Ontario’s chief coroner’s office, is investigating.
“The services are working jointly to ensure a full and comprehensive investigation and that all the necessary resources are in place to conduct this complex and difficult investigation,” police said.
The Mohawk Institute operated from the early 1830s until 1970 and was one of two residential schools in Southwestern Ontario. The other was the Mount Elgin Industrial School, located on what is now Chippewas of the Thames First Nation near London.
More than 150,000 Indigenous, Metis and Inuit children attended Canada’s church- and government-operated residential schools, intended to assimilate them into Canadian culture at the expense of their own. Mistreatment at the schools, detailed by the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report, included emotional, physical and sexual abuse. At least 4,100 children died at the schools.
That grim legacy has come under renewed scrutiny since the discovery last year of what are believed to be more than 200 unmarked graves at a former school site in B.C., and many more elsewhere.
The launch of the dedicated tip line for Mohawk Institute comes after Six Nations of the Grand River began searching for unmarked graves using ground-penetrating radar in early November.
Police ask anyone with information to call the toll-free tip line at 1-888-523-8587. It is monitored 12 hours a day, with calls returned within 24 hours.
Crisis supports are also offered, including the toll-free Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310, or via online chat at hopeforwellness.ca.
Calvi Leon is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the LONDON FREE PRESS. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. Turtle Island News does not receive LJI government funding.