Task force investigating unmarked burial site 'possibly associated' with Mohawk Institute in Brantford, Ont.
The task force charged with investigating the deaths of children at the former Mohawk Institute is looking into an unmarked burial discovered last year.
In what is now the Survivors' Secretariat's first case, officials are investigating an unmarked burial found in August 2020 near Glenwood Drive in Brantford, Ont.
The task force – which includes both police membership and representatives from Ontario's death investigation system – is working to determine if the burial may be associated with the former Mohawk Institute Residential School, once located about four kilometres away.
The task force said the close proximity of the burial to the lands known to be used by the Mohawk Institute, along with a new report suggesting the person was an adolescent at the time of their death, prompted the investigation.
“This is a child that has been found. A full and proper death investigation is required to determine who this child is and how they came to be buried in this location. This child deserves respect; they need a name and we need to remember they were a child and their family needs to know what happened,” Roberta Hill, a Survivor of the Mohawk Institute, said in a release.
In the release, Dr. Dirk Huyer, chief coroner for Ontario, said his office will apply a "principled, respectful and thorough investigation," into the burial site.
“We must honour and respect the spirit of this child so this move to a death and potential criminal investigation through the coroner’s office and the Task Force is very important,” Dr. Beverly Jacobs, the Survivors' Secretariat's Indigenous Human Rights Monitor, said in the release. “The human rights violations that have occurred to residential school children must give rise to reparations and justice. This first investigation is just the beginning.”
The Survivors' Secretariat was established this year to coordinate protocols and processes associated with death investigations related to the former Mohawk Institute.
"The investigation is ongoing, but we do know that the deceased is a youth, likely less than 14 years old," the office of the chief coroner said in a statement to CTV News. "We do not know the sex of the deceased person or whether the person is Indigenous. We are hoping to determine this during the investigation to assist in identifying this young person.
"Out of the respect for the deceased person, to protect their dignity, and to ensure the integrity of the investigation, it is not appropriate for us provide the location."
The Mohawk Institute was the first and longest-running Residential School in Canada, operating for 136 years. More than 500 acres of land are associated with the Institute are the focus of the Survivors' Secretariat's work.
- Six Nations 24/7 Mobile Crisis Line: 519-445-2204 or 1-866-445-2204
- Six Nations Mental Health and Addictions: 519-445-2143 (Monday-Friday, 8:30am-4:30pm)
- National Indian Residential School Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419
With reporting from CTV Kitchener's Carmen Wong