An investigation will take place on the grounds of the former Nova Scotia residential school


HALIFAX – The Sipekne’katik First Nation of Nova Scotia has announced that it will begin an investigation this weekend on the grounds of the former Indian Residential School in Shubenacadie.

In a press release, Chief Mike Sack says work has been “a priority” for many years, and the recent discovery of what are believed to be the remains of 215 Indigenous children at a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia, brought a “renewed sense of urgency”.

The work will be carried out by Jonathan Fowler, associate professor at Saint Mary’s University and a leading researcher in archaeological geophysics and remote sensing.

The group says Fowler will focus his investigation on the old school grounds to determine if there is any evidence of burial on site using several techniques, including ground penetrating radar.

He will work directly with community members and the Nova Scotia Museum’s Mi’kmaq Cultural Heritage Curator Roger Lewis as a co-investigator.

Dorene Bernard, a Mi’kmaq elder, confirmed on Tuesday that ground-penetrating radar was used at the site in April and December of last year, but no graves or human remains were found. She said a further investigation was planned.

Fowler’s previous research includes the successful mapping of graves associated with the sinking of the SS Atlantic in 1873 and the identification of nearly 300 unmarked graves in the Acadian cemetery prior to deportation to Grand-Pré National Historic Site.

“Our hearts remain with the people of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc (BC) as we all continue to fight against the impacts of the residential school system on Indigenous peoples in Canada,” said Sack. “The prospect of a similar discovery in our community is difficult to envision, but we must fully assess the site.”

The school was opened by the Department of Indian Affairs in 1930. Students from the three Maritime provinces and the Restigouche reserve in Quebec were welcomed.

The institution was operated by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Halifax until 1956 and was the only school of its type in the Maritimes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 4, 2021.

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