CityNews walks back false claim that 215 residential school graves discovered
CityNews walks back false claim that 215 residential school graves discovered

A legacy media outlet quietly erased the fact that it falsely reported 215 graves were uncovered at the site of the former residential school, following a post on the social media outlet X that was flagged as misinformation. 

CityNews Vancouver has since deleted a tweet and revised an article that inaccurately claimed “hundreds of unmarked graves” were discovered at the Kamloops Indian Residential School site. 

The post was flagged by X users as misleading, prompting the addition of a community note. CityNews edited the article to include the word “suspected” about the graves. Journalist Aastha Pandey-Kanaan’s name was removed from the piece. 

“May 27 marks a grim anniversary. Three years ago Monday, hundreds of unmarked graves were discovered at a residential school site in Kamloops,” the original post by CityNews Vancouver read.

The amended paragraph read differently.

“May 27 marks a grim anniversary. Three years ago Monday, the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation released the preliminary findings of its investigation, saying hundreds of suspected unmarked graves were discovered at a residential school site in Kamloops,” the article now says.

True North reached out to CityNews Vancouver for comment but did not receive a response.

The unverified announcement from 2021 captured global attention and resulted in the Liberal government lowering flags to half-mast for months. The international media storm also led to an official visit by Pope Francis to Canada. 

This news also led to a surge in church arson attacks, with more than 100 Canadian churches being damaged or destroyed since that summer.

Despite the initial reports, no graves have been confirmed at the Kamloops site in the three years following the announcement. The First Nation now describes the 215 findings as “anomalies” instead of confirmed graves. 

This change was evident in a recent Day of Reflection statement, which noted, “With the help of a ground-penetrating radar specialist, the stark truth of the preliminary findings came to light — the confirmation of 215 anomalies were detected.”

This contrasts sharply with the 2021 statement, which incorrectly asserted the discovery of “the remains of 215 children who were students” at the school. 

The original findings were based on ground-penetrating radar that detected 215 soil disturbances, potentially caused by various objects ranging from stones to wood. Sheldon Poitras, who led a similar investigation in Saskatchewan, told media last year that such anomalies can have many causes and do not definitively indicate graves.

In Saskatchewan, a radar search near the former Qu’Appelle Indian Residential School site turned up a piece of a jawbone belonging to a child. 

Analysis of the bone dated it to around 1900, a time of high student mortality related to illness at the school. However, the Kamloops findings have never been verified as graves or even bones.

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