National News

A look at the former Alberta residential school site Pope Francis plans to visit

By The Canadian Press

Published 12:20 PDT, Thu June 23, 2022

The Vatican has provided more details on Pope Francis' planned visit to Canada next month. The itinerary includes a stop at the site of a former residential school in Maskwacis, south of Edmonton.

Here are some facts about the Ermineskin Indian Residential School: 

— The school operated in what was then known as Hobbema, Alta., from 1895 to 1975. The community was renamed Maskwacis in 2014.  

— It was one of the largest residential schools in Canada. 

— Overcrowding and illness were problems in the school's early years. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has recorded the deaths of 15 students at the school during its operation. In 1903, three children died of tuberculosis, while a government survey in the 1920s concluded that 50 per cent of the students were infected with the disease. 

— Survivors from the school told the Truth and Reconciliation commission they were physically abused for speaking their first language and for practising their traditional ceremonies. One survivor said she was victimized by staff and students. 

— The federal government assumed complete responsibility for the facility in 1969. 

— The residence closed in the early 1970s and the educational facilities were transferred to the Ermineskin Cree Nation. 

— The First Nation started conducting a survey of the former school site using ground-penetrating radar last summer in a search for potential unmarked graves. 

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