Representatives from Treaty 8 and Treaty 6 First Nations are set to attend a small on-site ceremony prior to the investigation of 21 locations, which are possible Indigenous burial sites, next week. Additionally, two other sites in Enoch and the other in St Albert are set to be scanned.
Between June 24th through 25th and September 7th through 10th, the site of the former Charles Camsell Hospital was searched through by a ground-penetrating Radar (GPR) investigation.
The site of investigation was the southeast of the existing building, between the
construction fence and 114 Avenue, where a park existed for the former hospital from 1913 until 1967 and more recently an asphalt parking lot for the modern hospital from 1967 until as recently as 2004. Since 2004, the asphalt has been removed and the
lot sat mostly vacant.
Prior to mobilizing the investigation, the contracted company, Maverick Inspections, examined the location using Google Earth satellite imagery; specifically, the historical imagery function was used to review, contrast and compare current imagery against past images from the area dating back to 2004 showing the progression of a historic parking lot to the current state of a grass and gravel pad with rows of trees and additional spill piles and fill material.
Maverick Inspections Inc. had been selected to do the scan after remains were found at the residential school in Kamloops, B.C. in late May and after consulting Chief Calvin Bruneau from Papaschase First Nation.
Trinity Brandon-Demeuse from the Michel First Nation started a petition a year ago calling for a halt to the construction on the site. She said a year ago, there was barely any interest.
"Now that people are able to listen and hear us and understand what we're saying, I feel like it's finally making a difference and people are finally taking this seriously. People went from being really negative about it to supporting the movement to get this done. 'People remember graves there'.
The Camsell was a federally run hospital in 1944, taken over by the province until it closed in 1996. Former patients shared accounts of people being buried at the hospital, in addition to reports of physical, mental and sexual abuse, accounts of forced sterilization, shock therapy and experiments with TB vaccines on patients without their consent.
The interest of many Indigenous people into this case is personal. Figures like Maxime Beauregard, who was Bigstone Chief from 1947 to 1962, died there in the '60s. His descendants, such as Travis Gladue-Beauregard, have been advocating for the right to locate and bring his remains back home where they belong, as have many others with missing ancestors.
Gladue-Beauregard commented: “It was back then, the way the government was, the way Indian Affairs was, they didn’t have a lot of roads (or) infrastructure to haul bodies back home and I know that affected my family… I don’t even know if he got even a Christian burial or a traditional burial. I don’t know. I think for a lot of families who didn't have their loved ones come home, the idea is we’d just like to see some type of acknowledgement and also really try to bring some closure. For myself and for my family, for my family's legacy, we want to have something to go to.”