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Survivors’ Secretariat identifies 97 deaths in connection to former Brantford residential school


The survivors group leading the investigation into deaths at the former Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School (IRS) in Brantford are reporting figures more than double what the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) had initially documented.

On Wednesday, the Survivors’ Secretariat identified in its Year in Review a total of 97 deaths connected to the Institute, through research done by Know History historical services.

“We take this responsibility very seriously,” said Ryan Shackleton, Know History's CEO in a media release. “The work is difficult, and accessing the documents held by colonial institutions can be challenging, but it is worth the effort to ensure that the story is told from the survivors' perspective.”

To date, 6,705 records have been accessed, with 2,526 of those documents coming from NCTR and the remainder located through archival research by the Know History team.

Through Know History’s research, the Secretariat has identified 4,581 names of children who attended the Mohawk Institute and 725 names of people who worked at the Institute in some capacity.

“They are not confirmed graves,” said Tabitha Curley, a member of the Survivors’ Secretariat in an email to CTV News. “The number of deaths are a result of documented deaths which have been confirmed through document collection and research by Know History.”

Search efforts on the former residential school lands continue, with ground-penetrating radar technology being used to locate potential unmarked graves.

“We have completed scanning of 1.5 per cent of the search area; however, have not analyzed any of this data to date,” said Curley. “We are in the process of coordinating with experts in the field of geophysics to determine a path forward to analyze the ground-penetrating radar data.”


Residential school survivor Roberta Hill said she feels heartbroken about the rising death toll at the former Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School in Brantford.

“How could so many children pass away in a residential school? We didn’t go to school to die,” said Hill.

Hill was one of the confirmed 4,581 students who attended the residential school that was in operation from 1828 until the federal government closed it in 1970.

She says she remembers her classmates leaving without explanation.

“So somebody went away, that could have been their parents taking them home,” said Hill. “That’s the way we would’ve thought about it. ‘Oh somebody went home.’ We wouldn’t have known the difference.”

Hill said her hope is the families can get closure, knowing where their loved one are.

“Why not give the families some peace of mind and say here’s where your relative is,” she said.

At a year-end review, the Survivors’ Secretariat introduced Laura Arndt Secretariat lead.

“The records are showing in some cases that children entered the school and never left, said Arndt. “Some children entered and went home, were sick and died at home

“I think we can safely anticipate that we're going to continue to hear and see in the records that children died.”

As of Aug. 23, 2022, the Survivors’ Secretariat has completed GPR scanning of 387 plots each in a 10 by 10-metre grid.

The effort to find unmarked graves at the former Mohawk Institute began in earnest following the discovery of remains of as many as 215 children on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia by the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation in May 2021. Top Stories

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