Kuper Island Industrial School
(Kuper Island Industrial School | photo via National Centre for Truth & Reconciliation Archives)

Over 160 undocumented and unmarked graves have been confirmed at the site of a former residential school in the Gulf Islands.

The confirmation of graves at the Kuper Island Industrial School was announced by the Penelakut Tribe on Thursday.

“We understand that many of our brothers and sisters from our neighboring communities attended the Kuper Island Industrial School,” stated Chief Joan Brown.

“We also recognize with a tremendous amount of grief and loss, that too
many did not return home.”

The National Centre for Truth & Reconciliation (NCTR) says that even as early as 1896, there were official reports showing widespread deaths associated with the school. A survey conducted that year found that of 264 former students, 107 had died.

In Volume 1 of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, only a single employee of the Kuper Island Industrial School is indicated as facing charges.

That employee, Glenn Doughty, was first arrested in 1990 for charges stemming from his work at Williams Lake school.

Doughty, a member of the Oblate order, pled guilty to four charges of gross indecency for his treatment of students at Williams Lake. For this conviction, he received one year in jail.

In 1995, Doughty plead guilty to further charges of indecent assault and gross indecency, this time for abuse at Kuper Island school. He was sentenced to four months in jail.

Lastly, in 2000, thirty-six more charges were laid against Doughty for abuse at Williams Lake and Kuper Island. He was sentenced to an additional three years in jail.

“It is impossible to get over acts of genocide and human rights violations,” stated Chief Brown.

“Healing is an ongoing process, and sometimes it goes well, and sometimes we lose more people because the burden is too great.”

In light of the confirmation of graves of children at the Kuper Island Industrial School, Penelakut Tribe says they will be holding a series of healing sessions as well as a march.

The Penelakut Tribe’s March for the Children will take place on August 2, starting at 9 a.m. The march will begin at the Salish Sea Market in Chemainus, proceed up Oak Street onto Willow Street, then to Waterwheel Park.

Attendees at the march are asked to sign a waiver, which can be obtained at 8 a.m. on August 2 at the Salish Sea Market.

“We are at another point in time where we must face the trauma because of these acts of genocide,” stated Chief Brown.

“Each time we do, it is possible to heal a little more. Courage is not the absence of fear, courage is acting in spite of fear.”

NTCR has offered information for those in need of support:

If you are a Survivor and need emotional support, a national crisis line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Residential School Survivor Support Line: 1-866-925-4419

Additional Health Support Information

Emotional, cultural and professional support services are also available to Survivors and their families through the Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program. Services can be accessed on an individual, family or group basis.

British Columbia: 1-877-477-0775

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