Warning: This story deals with issues related to the Fort Alexander Residential School. The National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available to provide emotional and crisis referral services to former residential school students. It is available 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419. All Indigenous Peoples can access the Hope for Wellness Help Line at www.hopeforwellness.ca or by phoning 1-855-242-3310
The Manitoba RCMP said Tuesday in a news release that it has been conducting a large-scale investigation that has so far spanned 11 years into sexual abuse allegations at the former Fort Alexander Residential School in Sagkeeng First Nation.
The RCMP’s major crime service began gathering information to determine what took place following allegations of sexual abuse at the school in 2010 the statement said.
Police issued the release after a media inquiry was received about the investigation.
“Due to the many people affected by this investigation as well as the larger social implications, it was determined to be in the public interest to provide as much information on the ongoing investigation as we can,” the release said.
According to the release, a criminal investigation was launched in 2011.
Throughout the investigation, officers spoke to or interacted with more than 700 people from across North America, the police said.
Investigators went through thousands of documents, including student lists, employee lists, and quarterly returns. After compiling and collating all this data, investigators developed an investigative plan which included going door-to-door in the area where the school had been located.
Police and Sagkeeng Chief Derrick Henderson warned that privacy is important as the investigation continues.
“Violation of the privacy rights of those involved in this investigation will not only cause further trauma to everyone involved, but also potentially compromise this highly sensitive investigation,” he said.
The Fort Alexander Residential School was in operation from 1905 until 1970 where it continued to operate as a local day school for a number of years.
Investigators travelled to Ottawa to review available archival records to identify anyone involved. Investigators also searched the Manitoba archives to gather further historical information.
RCMP said more than 680 investigational tasks have been identified and completed so far and more than 80 RCMP investigators have been engaged in this investigation. Seventy-five witness and victim statements were obtained by police.
As a result, an investigative court package was sent to the province’s prosecution services to provide advice regarding charges.
APTN News reached out to RCMP headquarters asking if there were any other investigations like this across the country but have not heard back.
First Nations leaders and organizations have been in contact with the RCMP including the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Southern Chiefs Organization (SCO).
SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels said in a statement that he supports the investigation.
“We expect it to be a thorough investigation, and at the end, for those guilty of horrendous crimes against children to be brought to justice using the full extent of the law. We’ve waited more than long enough for these criminals be held fully accountable,” the statement reads.
Manitoba RCMP have said this is their only investigation into residential schools and no charges have been laid as of yet and the investigation is still ongoing.