Sexual abuse allegations at former Manitoba residential school investigated by RCMP

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

Manitoba RCMP say they have been investigating allegations of sexual abuse at a former residential school in Sagkeeng First Nation for more than a decade.

The Fort Alexander Residential School opened on what is now known as Sagkeeng First Nation in 1904. It closed in 1970 but continued to operate as a day school for a number of years. 

In a Tuesday morning news release, Manitoba RCMP said their major crimes unit began looking into allegations of sexual abuse at the school in February 2010 and launched a formal criminal investigation a year later. 

After an extensive investigation that involved more than 80 RCMP officers speaking with more than 700 people, the police force forwarded its findings to the Manitoba Prosecution Service to review and determine whether charges are warranted. 

No charges have been laid at this time. 

This is the only investigation into a residential school in the province currently underway, Manitoba RCMP said in Tuesday’s release.

The RCMP typically does not discuss ongoing investigations, but says it decided to make this one public after an inquiry from the Winnipeg Free Press, which first reported on the RCMP investigation.

“Due to the many people affected by this investigation as well as the larger social implications, it was determined to be in the public interest to provide as much information on the ongoing investigation as we can,” RCMP said in the news release.

Elders and survivors in Sagkeeng First Nation, about 100 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, have long spoken of abuse at the school and missing children, including during hearings for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Chief Derrick Henderson said last week. 

That prompted the community to raise money to hire a professional drone services company to conduct the search of the school grounds for potential unmarked graves using a drone and ground-penetrating radar technology.

Support is available for anyone affected by the lingering effects of residential school and those who are triggered by the latest reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for residential school survivors and others affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

Do you have information about unmarked graves, children who never came home or residential school staff and operations? Email your tips to CBC’s new Indigenous-led team investigating residential schools:

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