The remains of more than 200 children were found at the site of a former residential school for Indigenous children in Canada.
Children as young as three are among 215 sets of remains found at Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, local Indigenous leaders have said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the discovery heartbreaking.
The school, located about 354 km northeast of Vancouver, was once Canada’s largest boarding school before closing in 1978.
The remains were found with the help of a ground-penetrating radar specialist, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation said.
The Chief of the Nation, Rosanne Casimir, said in a statement: “We had knowledge in our community that we were able to verify. At the moment, we have more questions than answers.”
Horrific physical abuse, rape, malnutrition and other atrocities were suffered by many of the 150,000 children who attended schools, a six-year investigation of the now dismantled system found in 2015.
Indigenous children were forcibly separated from their families in what investigators called “cultural genocide”.
He revealed that more than 4,100 children died while attending residential school, but the 215 are not believed to be included in that figure.
The news that remains was found in the old Kamloops residential school breaks my heart – it is a painful reminder of this dark and shameful chapter in our country’s history. I think of all those who are touched by this distressing news. We are here for you. https://t.co/ZUfDRyAfET
– Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) May 28, 2021
Mr Trudeau wrote in a tweet that the news “breaks my heart – it is a painful reminder of this dark and shameful chapter in our country’s history.”
In 2008, the Canadian government formally apologized for the system.
The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation said it is engaging with the coroner and reaching out to communities of origin whose children attend school.
He expects to have preliminary conclusions by mid-June.
British Columbia Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Terry Teegee called the search for such burial sites “urgent work” that “refreshes the sorrow and loss of all First Nations in British Columbia. British”.