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MNN. July 4, 2023,
Following the recent discovery of the scent of human remains by Historic Human Remains Detection Dogs (HHRDD) on the grounds of the old Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, the Kanien’kehá:ka Kahnistensera (Mohawk Mothers) appeal to McGill University and the Government of Quebec to apply the same precautions for protecting potential remains on other similar sites. “It is our understanding that several other institutions in Quebec may contain unmarked graves of our children, not only in Indian Residential Schools or hospitals, but also in former sanatoria, orphanages and correctional homes,” said Kwetiio, one of the Mohawk Mothers.
The Kanien’kehá:ka Kahnistensera have obtained the first injunction ever granted to self-represented Indigenous people on October 27th, 2022, halting excavation work for McGill’s “New Vic” Project in the former Royal Victoria Hospital to search for unmarked graves following the testimonies of survivors of the MK-Ultra psychiatric experiments on mind control. During the hearing, McGill University and the Société québécoise des infrastructures (SQI) had started excavating the very same area where the dogs now found human remains, declaring that nothing had been found by archaeologists and that the New Vic construction project could begin.
According to the Kanien’kehá:ka Kahnistensera, it is very likely that the human remains would have been destroyed by construction work if they did not intervene in court, despite lacking resources and legal assistance. “We should not have to go to court for this. Taxpayer money should not be spent on litigation against survivors and their family members who want to identify, protect and investigate the unmarked graves of victims of medical experiments”, says Mohawk Mother Kahentinetha, “they should collaborate from the onset to treat human remains with respect as responsible institutions would do”.
The human remains were independently detected by three separate HHRDD handled by Kim Cooper, of the Ottawa Valley Search and Rescue Dog Association, on June 9, 2023, following a lengthy court process which led to a Settlement Agreement being homologated by the Superior Court of Quebec on April 20, 2023. Kimberly Murray, the Independent Special Interlocutor for Missing Children and Unmarked Graves and Burials Sites associated with Indian Residential Schools, who intervened in the court proceedings, noted in her recently released Interim Report that “There is a need to expand the scope of research beyond Indian Residential School sites. … Current investigations are beginning to reveal how the systems and patterns of colonial violence that existed in the Indian Residential School system extended to [other] associated institutions. …
Understanding the full scope of the forced transfer of children from one institution to the next and the conditions that led to their deaths will require significant time, funding, research, and long-term commitment to finding the truth.” The Mohawk Mothers urge McGill University and the McGill University Health Center to pause excavation work and large-scale renovation plans for hospitals and medical research centers who may contain the graves of Indigenous and non-Indigenous children as test subjects in the past. This includes not only the grounds of the Royal Victoria Hospital and the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, but also its main campus in downtown Montreal, where Iroquoian Longhouses and gravesites were repeatedly discovered, including at the intersection of Peel and Sherbrooke streets in 2018.
On June 30th, 2023, the day following a court date where the HHRDD discovery was discussed, the Kanien’kehá:ka Kahnistensera were shocked to learn that McGill University had launched large-scale archaeological inventories next to the McLennan Library. McGill had not informed the Kahnistensera even though they had repeatedly expressed their vested interest in protecting the remains of their ancestors buried under the university in court. McGill University did not express whether Indigenous monitors and specialists in human burials were present at the archaeological site.
Regarding the more recent remains of medical experiments, the Mohawk Mothers are concerned that Quebec is not taking its responsibility regarding the widespread abuse of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous children such as the Duplessis Orphans in the past century. The Mohawk Mothers recently asked the Quebec government and the CIUSSS to halt the sale of the Hôpital de la Miséricorde, a former house for unwed mothers, to investigate the probability that it contains human remains; a meeting with the CIUSSS to discuss the demand will take place in Kahnawake on July 6th, 2023. “But we can’t run after the government all the time to make sure none of these sites where medical cruelty happened get desecrated or sold to get rid of them and the terrible evidence of the past they contain, says Kahentinetha.
According to the Kahnistensera, the same type of agreement and investigation that resulted from the Royal Victoria Hospital Court Case should be followed in all other similar sites. In particular, the institutions that should be investigated and protected can be found in both the list of sites that Indigenous people requested to be included in the settlement process for Residential Schools, and that were not accepted because they were not schools operated by the Federal government, and in lists of orphanages, psychiatric wards and institutions attended by Duplessis Orphans (see attached documents). Approximately 200 institutions may be concerned. According to anthropologist Philippe Blouin, who accompanies the Mohawk Mothers in court, there was widespread abuse of children in Quebec until the late 1960’s, and strong connections between the treatment of Indigenous children and Duplessis Orphans must be investigated to help survivors find closure while it is still time.
The Government of Canada should also follow suit with hospitals under Federal custody in Quebec, including the Parc Savard Indian Hospital and the veterans’ hospitals in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue and on Queen May Road in Montreal. Finally, the Kahnistensera insist that respecting human remains is an issue of public interest and that proper capacity funding must be provided to Indigenous investigators seeking to protect burial sites. The Kanien’kehá:ka Kahnistensera (Mohawk Mothers) is a Kahnawake-based group that helps Indigenous women accomplish their traditional cultural duty as caretakers of the land, to protect all life, including their children and ancestors. They have been engaged in a legal challenge with promoters of the New Vic project to stall future excavation of the former Royal Victoria Hospital site until a proper archaeological investigation is conducted, using the traditional protocols of the Kaianere’kó:wa (Great Peace). https://www.mohawkmothers.ca/ Contact for press: ka***********@ri****.net Kahnawake, P.O. Box 991
Mohawk Robbie Robertson of the Band could have been writing about the perils of Mount Royal:
Box 911, kahnawake quebec canada J0L 1B0 ka***********@pr********.com
For updates, see MohawkMothers.ca